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 under pressure
The fed cattle market is under pressure, and this week’s weighted average fed steer price was the lowest seen this year. Cattle averaged around $160 per hundredweight and dressed trade was between $266-268 per cwt.
Ontario continues to trade far behind Alberta. Live steers were $124-$152 per cwt. and $263-265 on the rail.
However, the Alberta cash-to-cash basis is the strongest since early February. Prices in the United States were down to $121 per cwt. Competition between local plants was lacklustre, but some interest from the U.S. was noted.
Fed cattle exports to the U.S. remains below average, and about 52,000 have gone south so far this year.
Total Canadian slaughter for the year reached 630,975, up seven percent from last year at this time. More than half graded AAA, and carcass weights are down slightly. Total beef production is up seven percent.
Calf and feeder prices weaken
Calf and feeder prices were generally down $5-$7 per cwt., and the demand for replacement feeders has softened in response to dropping fed cattle bids.
Feeder futures have dropped about $15 per cwt. in the last six weeks. Feedlot marketings are being squeezed, and this will maintain pressure on feeders.
This week’s prices should be approaching the bottom of the market.
Alberta steers in the 500-600 pound range was the only category to show some improvement and traded for an average $218.58 per cwt. All other weight classes were down. The 800-900 lb. group showed the largest decline by six percent over last week, when bids averaged $152.06 per cwt.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba reported similar prices. Ontario actually saw some minor improvements. Steers in the 500-600 lb. range averaged $218.27, down one percent from last week, while those weighing 700-800 lb. were up four percent from last week at $193.40 and the 800-900 lb. group averaged $177.41, a slight dip from earlier in March but an improvement from last year at this time.
Interest from the U.S. and Ontario feeding sector continues to show up in Western Canada. There is also some additional demand for replacement heifers in some regions.
Alberta auction volumes were about 35,000.
Year to date feeder exports are up substantially. Nearly 6,200 were exported this past week, bringing the total to 38,700 head.
Cow prices up
Cull cow prices saw a slight improvement with light to moderate numbers moving through auctions. This is the fourth consecutive week for improvement in this category, where there seems to be ample supplies of cattle.
However, cow prices are $3 per cwt. lower than their annual highs recorded in January.
Canadian cow slaughter exceeded 9,000 head, the highest level for that week since 2007. Cow prices seasonally strengthen going into the spring, but cold weather has pushed back the grilling season and demand for ground beef.
Alberta D1, 2 cows averaged $92.75 per cwt. last week, but Ontario was hovering around $79.84 per cwt. Rail grades in the West were $177-183 per cwt.
Butcher bulls traded $2.50 higher to average $106.25 last week.
Cull cow and bull exports to the U.S. are far below the average. Less than 3,000 went to the U.S. last week. Year-to-date exports of this class are down 37 percent.
Breeding stock exports are far below average. About 1,470 have been sold so far this year. Ninety-five head were exported last week.
Canadian cut-out values for the week ending March 16 saw AAA firm over $1 higher. The AAA cutout value was $270.19 per cwt, about $6 lower than last year, while AA cutout was similar to last year at $266.94 per cwt. The price spread between AAA and AA was $8.82.
Fresh trimmings are holding with last year’s prices — 50 percent trimming at $1.02 per lb. and 85 percent at $2.61 a lb.