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.
Tight supply lifts price
Alberta fed steers on average fetched $175.05 per hundredweight, up $2.97, and heifers were $172.76.
A new annual high was set with values at the highest point since February 2016.
Dressed prices ranged widely on a mix of calves and yearlings for various delivery dates. Most sales for immediate delivery were $294-$295 delivered. A few sales were set for four to five weeks out at $288 delivered.
There was U.S. buying interest, but bids were not competitive.
Alberta cash cattle were trading at a premium to the Nebraska market recently, but last week the cash basis weakened to -$2.92.
Weekly western Canada slaughter for the year is up four percent to 436,701.
Steer carcasses rose five pounds but were an incredible 47 lb. smaller than the same week last year.
Weekly exports to April 8 fell from the previous week’s annual peak to 6,094 head.
Tight North American fed supplies will support prices, and U.S. buying interest should pick up.
Alberta fed steer calf supplies have been thinned, and more light heifer calves will soon be offered.
Smaller carcasses should support an aggressive kill if packers want to maintain current production.
U.S. live prices in the south generally rose US$2-$4 and dressed sales in the north were mostly $5-$7 higher.
Most live sales were $130-$133, and dressed sales were $210-$212.
The U.S. marketing rate in the first quarter was the highest for the period since 2003, which was when the U.S. limited imports from Canada because of BSE.
A few calving culls have appeared, but non-fed volumes through commercial auction facilities have been light.
Slaughter volume is being supported by feedlot or speculative purchased cows that were put on feed in the first quarter of this year.
Cow slaughter volumes for the first half of April are up 16 percent compared to last year.
D1, D2 cows ranged C$97-$116 to average $107 per cwt., up 88 cents. D3 cows ranged $89-$104 to average $95.75.
Price are $6 higher than the same time last year.
Slaughter bulls averaged $125.64, up $2.42.
Canadian bull exports are down seven percent this year and western Canadian slaughter is up 31 percent.
It was the first week since November 2015 where short-keep feeder prices were higher than year-ago levels.
The largest week-over-week price increase was on 850 pound steers. New annual highs were established.
Only once in the past 17 years, in 2004, was the first half high set in April. Heavier feeder prices historically strengthen into late spring.
In 12 of the past 17 years, 850 lb. steer prices have risen from April to May with an average month-over-month increase of three percent.
Since 2000, first half highs occurred in May or June about half of the time.
Terminal feedlots are active in the grass cattle market.
Feedlot placements of calves and light stockers under 700 lb. in January, February and March were seven percent, 15 percent and 27 percent larger, respectively, compared to last year.
This increase in lighter placements will likely affect the fourth quarter fed market.
Given how aggressive terminal feedlots have been on buying grass-weight cattle, it would not be surprising if there were grass orders that still need to be filled.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba feeder prices have closed ground against the Alberta market. Saskatchewan heifers 500-900 lb. were steady to a slight premium over the Alberta market.
The calf and feeder market looked another $2-$5 higher toward the end of the week.
U.S. beef higher
Choice was up US$5.05 per cwt. at $215.72. and Select was up $4.81 at $203.57.
Post-Easter demand for grilling items is expected to pick up, supporting middle meat and ground beef prices.
Weekly Canadian boxed beef prices to April 15 saw AAA up C$6.53 at 282.67 per cwt., and AA was up $5.53 at $271.10.
The March Consumer Price Index shows a 1.3 percent month-over-month increase in CPI for beef and a .6 percent increase for chicken, while pork was down .8 percent.
The indices for red meat and chicken were all down compared to last year with beef down seven percent, pork down 6.8 percent and chicken down 1.3 percent.