This cattle market information is selected from the weekly report from Canfax, a division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. More market information, analysis and statistics are available by becoming a Canfax subscriber by calling 403-275-5110 or at www.canfax.ca.
Fed prices rose for a 10th consecutive period in the week ending Dec. 23 and posted a new second half high.
Fed steers averaged $154.51 per hundredweight, up 69 cents. Heifer trade was too small to establish an average.
Alberta fed prices were at a $21-$26 premium to the Ontario market over the past couple of weeks, which was the largest premium of the year.
Stronger cash prices and basis levels brought some cattle to market ahead of schedule.
Some of these yearlings have been on full feed for less than 100 days, but weight sorts were performed and heavy cattle were marketed.
Feedlot inventories are current, and carcass weights are expected to remain below year-ago levels.
Steer weights fell four pounds from the previous week and were the smallest since the first half of August.
Buying interest was mixed with one packer in Alberta more aggressive than the other. In some instances, there was as much as a $10 price difference in live bids between the two plants.
Premiums were paid for quick delivery cattle as buyers looked for cattle to be delivered between Christmas and New Years.
Some producers negotiated lift times into the second half of January, and dressed bids were in the mid-$250s on a delivered basis.
Fewer cows are on feed this year, which should support the western Canadian fed complex.
However, it cannot be ignored that there is basis risk to the Canadian market.
Canadian beef cutouts must also be competitive with the U.S. market if fed cattle prices are to maintain their premium to the U.S. market.
In the United States, dressed sales in the north were US$5 higher, while southern regions traded $2-$4 higher on a live basis.
D1, D2 cows ranged C$85-$100 per cwt. to average $93.08, up $1. D3s ranged $75-$91 to average $83.75, down 50 cents.
Dressed cow bids were $180-$185 delivered.
Butcher bulls averaged $101.69, down 81 cents.
Weekly western Canadian non-fed slaughter to Dec. 17 rebounded sharply to 9,792 head. For the year, slaughter was running 15 percent ahead at 320,375 head.
Weekly exports to Dec. 10 were up nine percent at 5,320 head.
Exports are down 11 percent for the year at 248,074 head.
Some cull cows put on feed will go to market in the new year, but overall cow numbers are expected to be moderate.
Alberta feeder prices rose as producers had one last time to sell or buy feeders for the 2016 tax season.
Steer calves traded mixed on various qualities, and heifer calves were steady to $5 higher.
Market strength carried over into feeders heavier than 600 pounds, and prices were generally $2-$4 per cwt. higher.
The calf index rose $1.44 to $190.79, and the feeder index firmed to $175.24.
Weekly auction volume was seasonally modest at 28,613 head.
Auction volume for the year was 1,534,642 head, down one percent from the previous year.
Weekly feeder exports to Dec. 10 were a meagre 163 head. Exports for the year stood at 177,186 head, down 38 percent.
More feeder heifers were at auction during the week, which may indicate that the stronger market prompted producers to sell more feeders over the past couple of weeks rather than carrying them into the new year.
On that note, moderate calf marketings are anticipated for the first half of January, which should support prices.
Ample feedgrain supplies and a weaker loonie could also support prices.
U.S. beef up
U.S. beef cutouts jumped higher on moderate demand and offerings.
Choice was US$197.61 per cwt., up $3.40, and Select was $186.17, up more than $7.
The U.S. Choice cutout traded higher than a year ago despite both the Choice and Select rib primal plummeting. Chuck and round surged higher during the week.
Weekly Canadian cut-out values to Dec. 16 were not available.