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 rally absent
Fed steer prices dropped by 85 cents per hundredweight last week to $154.98, while fed heifer prices were up 15 cents at $154.09. Prices traditionally rally into spring, but this hasn’t been the case so far this year.
Western Canadian fed prices have trended lower for four straight weeks with new annual lows established. Ontario fed prices have also come under pressure, but they are a couple dollars higher than their January lows.
With fed prices hovering in the mid $150s for the past two weeks, feedlots have likely just started to sell cattle at a loss. Last year, break-evens declined into summer, but it looks like a much different scenario this year.
A lot of the calves placed against the second quarter fed market have break-evens in the upper $150s. In terms of fed supplies, the market is in a transition phase as yearling supplies dwindle and calves start to come onto the market.
Last week five to 10 percent of the cattle on offer were calves, and there was no price difference between calves and yearlings. Most of the dressed sales were reported at $260 delivered. Packers remain comfortably bought out in front. Most of the cattle that traded last week will be lifted in late April.
First quarter fed cattle exports totalled 65,182 head, 20 percent lower compared to last year and 22 percent lower compared to 2016.
Non-fed in demand
Prices for D1 and D2 cows and slaughter bulls jumped last week. Cows traded at $87-$102 per cwt. to average $95.13, up $3.71. Slaughter bulls traded at $109.65, up $3.39 from the previous week.
Non-fed cattle saw continued good demand, and prices firmed $2.50-$3.50 higher than the previous week. Dressed slaughter cow bids were reported around $182-$187 delivered. Butcher bull prices typically firm higher through the first half of the year, and prices this week again climbed to a new annual high.
Western Canadian non-fed slaughter for the week ending April 7 was two percent smaller than the previous week at 7,308 head. Year-to-date western non-fed slaughter is eight percent larger, totalling 120,356 head.
Canadian non-fed exports to the United States for the week ending March 31 eased modestly to 2,748 head, of which 772 were butcher bulls.
Alberta feeder prices firmed higher last week on renewed grass interest and tightening supplies. Technical indices rebounded following the previous week’s instability to enhance the cattle complex.
Light steer calves traded $2.50-$5 higher last week, and similar weight heifers trended sideways. Grass type 500-700 pound steers saw prices rebound $8-$9.50 higher than the previous week, and heifers generally traded $3 higher.
A modest offering of feeders heavier than 700 lb. traded widely $3-$7.50 higher on varied quality. Interest was once again noted on replacement quality heifers. The Alberta feeder index ended the week $5 higher at $178.23, and the calf index surged almost $8.50 higher to $207.54.
This week’s auction volume saw twice the cattle numbers of the previous week with a total of 20,271 head. However, auction volumes the previous week were the smallest seen this year, given the holiday and poor shipping weather that contributed to low volumes.
Year to date auction volumes are eight percent lower than a year ago at 374,352 head. Feeder exports to the U.S. for the week ending March 31 were 14 percent larger than the previous week at 10,620 head, the largest since the first week of April 2016. Year-to-date feeder exports were 42 percent larger at 58,595 head.
Some marketings may have been delayed by winter weather, and a flush of cattle could come to auction over the next two weeks. Seasonally, however, auction volumes are expected to tighten right through to the doldrums of summer.
Some feedlot pen space will eventually be freed up, and grass interest should pop when more snow melts. Prices are anticipated fully steady to modestly higher.
Prices for U.S. Choice and Select were down from the previous week. The Choice cut-out value was US$212.48 last week compared to $215.09 the previous week. Select traded at $200.67 compared to $206.31 the previous week.
This week’s Choice-Select spread continued to widen and is a good indication that Choice demand is improving.