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 cattle down slightly
Fed steer and heifer prices dropped from last week, with steers trading at $165.66 per hundredweight, down $1.78, and heifers trading at $164.27 per cwt., down $2.32.
Canfax reported that Alberta direct cattle sales saw active trade last week with average prices generally $2 lower than the previous week. A few live sales were reported, but the majority of trade was dressed.
Rail sales varied from $275-$280 delivered on softer U.S. cash and cattle futures. Late in the week, all three packers scrambled to secure inventory for the next two weeks with keen interest in larger lots.
Weekly Alberta steer prices were $17 per cwt. higher than Ontario, and the Alberta-Nebraska cash basis continued seasonally strong at around +$13.50.
Steer carcass weights for the week ending Jan. 6 were steady with the previous week at 912 pounds, which was six lb. smaller than a year ago.
Western Canadian fed slaughter for the first week of January was 15 percent larger than the previous week at 23,431 head. Canadian fed cattle exports to the United States for the week ending Dec. 30 were seasonally slight at 1,641 head and year to date were five percent larger at 315,126 head.
In the U.S., prices were generally US$1-$2 lower than the previous week. Dressed sales in the north were mostly $3 lower at $192. Last week’s estimated Nebraska fed basis strengthened to +$3.05, and cattle feeders appear to be gaining leverage.
Looking at 2017 Canadian calf prices overall, Canfax said they were 1.8 percent higher than in 2016, averaging C$221.73. Prices in 2017 were also in line with the five-year average.
Cow price strengthens
D1 and D2 cows traded at C$88-$102 in the West last week to average $95.70. D3 cows traded from $78-$91 to average $85.25. Rail grade cattle ranged from $183-$188. Slaughter bulls averaged $101.86.
Compared to the end of December, butcher cow and bull prices strengthened $4-$6. The last time D1, D2 cows averaged over $95 was in late August. For the first half of the year, cow slaughter volumes traditionally peak during the second half of January. Non-fed prices traditionally strengthen from January to February, though this didn’t occur in 2016 or 2017, said Canfax.
Over the past five years, the average increase from second half lows to first half highs stands at 33 percent. This would suggest the market could move to the $112 area for a potential first half high. Tight fed supplies for the first quarter of 2018 bode well for the non-fed market.
Light feeders in demand
Prices for lightweight calves dropped in early January. Eastern buyers were active on one-owner groups of feeders weighing more than 800 lb. Last week the price spread from 750-950 lb. steers was $9 per cwt., which could be a sell signal for heavyweight feeders, said Canfax.
The forward delivery market last week was lightly tested. Steers weighing 900 lb. for March delivery traded in the mid to upper $170s.
The US Choice cut-out value was $209.07 last week, up slightly from $208.67 the week previous. Select was $202.95, up from $200.86 the previous week.
Demand for middle meats is typically slow after the holiday, and as holiday bills start to arrive consumers may look for cheaper protein alternatives.
Canadian cut-out values were not available.