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 trade light
Alberta direct cattle sales were slow to develop last week with light trade reported on May 30. Business turned active on May 31 with live prices $2-$2.50 lower per hundredweight than the previous week.
Dressed sales ranged from $241-$243 delivered, with the majority of sales at $242. A few heifers traded live last week and were priced comparable with rail sales.
Total sale volumes were light to moderate and a significant portion of the showlist was carried over. Western Canadian fed slaughter for the four-day week ending May 26 was eight percent smaller than the previous week, totaling 35,414 head. Year to date western fed slaughter was nine percent larger at 702,582 head.
Canadian fed cattle exports to the United States for the week ending May 19 were 25 percent larger than the previous week at 5,720 head and year to date were down 16 percent, totaling 104,398 head.
Canadian steer carcass weights indicate market ready feedlot supplies through June should remain manageable. Over the previous five weeks, steer carcass weights have plummeted 60 pounds lower to 831 lb. and are eight lb. lower than the same week last year. This is the lightest steer carcass weight since July 1, 2014.
Packers have a comfortable supply of grid cattle around them to supplement weekly cash procurement.
Fed cattle trade was also light last week in the U.S. There were a few loads traded early last week and follow-up trade on May 31 at US $110 in the south, mostly steady with the previous week.
In the north, light trade started in the $110-$111 range, also mostly steady with the previous week. Feeder cattle and cows were both steady to slightly higher last week. U.S. packers continued to aggressively process cattle.
Plenty of cull cows
D1 and D2 cows, as well as slaughter bulls, saw lower prices last week. Cows traded at C $85-$105 to average $94.44 and bulls were down by $1.13 to average $112.18.
Cull cow prices were under pressure with volumes at auction higher as calving culls were being sorted and marketed. Demand was also moderate, as larger fed supplies added to the competition for hook space.
Western Canadian cow slaughter two weeks ago was near 6,300 head, more than 2,000 higher than the same week a year ago. Over the previous three weeks, western cow slaughter has been averaging about 2,000 more than a year ago.
It was last week a year ago that cow prices peaked, and while cow prices tend to stay strong later into the summer, upside on the cow market may be limited. More calving culls are likely to come, and with growing fed cattle supplies, cull cow prices may struggle to hold steady.
Light steer volumes
Feeders and calves saw seasonally light trade last week. Many auctions reported very light steer volumes, with more of the feeders being clean-up heifers.
Prices across feeders and calves were reported to be under modest pressure. Smaller lot sizes and quality may have played into lower prices. Lackluster market conditions and feedlots now selling fed cattle at losses have also reduced the demand for feeders.
Grass cattle continued to see demand for good quality calves. The month of May had good export demand for calves and feeders. Feeder exports for the first three weeks of May were 26,736, 322 percent higher than the very small numbers from a year ago.
Feeder exports tend to peak in March and April, but this year there has been an unseasonal increase in exports in May.
Recent rains across much of the Prairies should bode well for grass cattle demand. Feeder cattle numbers will likely remain limited, which should help support prices at current levels.
Cash to futures feeder basis levels seasonally weakened, as the nearby futures roll to the August contract. Feeder basis levels typically remain weak from June into July before strengthening into the early fall.
Cow-calf pairs traded in a range of $1,500-$3,400 last week.
Moderate beef demand
U.S. cutout values eased modestly lower last week with generally light to moderate boxed beef demand on a moderate to heavy offering. Choice rib slipped over $2.50 lower than the previous week to average US $228.30 while Select traded steady at $204.47.
Canadian cutout values for the week ending May 18 traded mixed with AAA C$3.83 higher than the previous week and AA down $3.62 per cwt.