Canfax report

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

Herd shrinks

The mid-year Statistics Canada livestock inventory report showed another decline in the cow herd. Total cattle inventories are 12,345 million head, the smallest July 1 census since 1988.

Total inventories are down .8 percent with beef cows down 1.2 percent and heifer replacements down 2.6 percent. There are an estimated 3.9 million beef cows, the lowest count since 1990.

The national dairy herd increased by 1.4 percent and sits at 940,000 cows.

Cow marketings are up, and poor calving conditions further affected the population. Feeder supplies outside of feedlots are three percent lower than last year. This shorter supply means feeder calf exports are down and imports have picked up in the last year.

The West saw the greatest decline while eastern cattle inventories are flat. The only province to show growth was British Columbia, where cow numbers are up three percent.

Manitoba lost the most cows at 2.6 percent, while Alberta and Saskatchewan were both down 1.4 percent. Alberta still has the largest beef herd with 41 percent of the country’s cattle. Saskatchewan is at 29 percent, Manitoba 12 percent and British Columbia and Ontario are six percent each.

Fed market softer

The Alberta fed market was down $1.50 per hundredweight with steers moving to a new annual low.

Sales were dressed from $238-$240 per cwt. delivered. Of all the cattle sold, 85 percent were sold on a carcass basis.

Slaughter continues at a brisk pace. Western Canadian fed slaughter for the week ending Aug. 18 was 26 percent higher than the previous week, totalling 46,319 head. Total slaughter is at 1.2 million so far this year, seven percent greater than last year.

Those grading Prime and AAA continue to improve compared to 2017. More than 63 percent were AAA, but only 16 percent were yield grade 1. About 22 percent were yield grade 2 and more than a quarter of the AAA carcasses were a yield grade 3.

Steer and heifer carcass weights are down about 10 pounds from last year. Steers were averaging 879 lb. while heifers were 816 lb.

Cows and bulls down

Butcher cows have dropped by $6.75 per cwt., and bulls dropped by $2.25 per cwt.

Western D2 cows ranged from $82-$95 per cwt., while Ontario was $61.72-$75.13.

D3 cows in the West were $74-$86 per cwt., but in the East they were coming in at $50.63-$61.72 per cwt.

Yearlings under pressure

Yearling prices were under pressure for the week ending Aug. 24, while calves and lightweight stockers trended steady to higher.

Steers from the four western provinces weighing 600-699 lb. for October delivery saw a weighted average of $216.53 per cwt.

Dry pastures are sending calves to market sooner and lighter than normal. Calf and feeder prices may see limited upside in the near term because of higher barley prices and lower trending live cattle futures contracts. Yearling prices may have already peaked.

Alberta steers in the 600-700 lb. category traded for an average $211.50 per cwt., a nine percent drop over the previous week. B.C. met Alberta’s average while Saskatchewan averaged $214.50 per cwt. Ontario steers averaged $200.83 per cwt.

No trade was reported from Manitoba.


Feeder calf exports have stepped up but are still historically low. Year to date, 142,415 head have gone south. Fed exports at 223,400 head are down 20 percent over last year. In total, 397,000 head of cattle have been exported to the United States this year.

Feed prices strong

Canadian feedgrain prices are strong. Lethbridge barley is trading at $252-$257 a tonne and wheat is $253-$270 per tonne. Lethbridge corn is $249 a tonne.

Ontario corn is $196.83 a tonne, and barley is trading at $300 per tonne in that province.

US cattle on feed

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Aug. 1 cattle-on-feed report noted that placements were higher than expected. On-feed inventory was more than 11 million, about 4.6 percent higher than last year at this time.

The increase in placements was all in the lighter weight categories, while those in the 800 lb. range fell behind.

On-feed numbers could remain high for the time being because of a large calf crop and dry conditions in parts of the U.S.

The Alberta-Saskatchewan on-feed report said 839,073 head were on-feed as of July 1 compared to Aug. 1 with 751,557 because more were moving through to slaughter.

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