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.
Moderate fed cattle trade
Alberta direct cattle sales saw moderate volume trade this week, and prices slipped slightly lower by 75 cents per hundredweight.
Live prices in Alberta ranged from $157.50-$160 per cwt., and dressed prices were in a tight $268-$270 per cwt. delivered trading range. Ontario live steers ranged from $128.50-$165.25 and $255-$260 per cwt. on the rail.
Weights are creeping up again. Last week, western Canadian steer carcass weights were 13 pounds heavier than the previous week and 45 lb. greater than the same week last year.
More than 65 percent graded AAA while 30 percent were AA.
American buyers have shown more interest in Canadian cattle. U.S. captive formula supplies are also building to reduce reliance on the cash market. Wet weather across most of the U.S. corn belt has reduced market ready cattle and quality.
So far this year more than 14,000 slaughter steers, heifers and cows have been exported, up 21 percent over the same period for 2018.
The largest volume of Canadian feeder exports to the United States is traditionally in the first quarter of the year. In 2018, first quarter Canadian feeder exports averaged slightly more than 4,500 head on a weekly basis. More than 2,275 feeders have been exported for the first two weeks of this January.
Exports could be moderate because feeders greater than 750 lb. are trading at a $7-$8 premium over the U.S. market. Growth in their cow-calf segment over the past few years could lower export demand for Canadian feeder cattle.
This week, 550 lb. steer calf prices were $224.15 per cwt., and for the first time since October, prices are higher compared to the same week a year ago.
Across the West, 500-600 lb. steers ranged from $216-$224 per cwt. with the strongest prices in Alberta. For cattle weighing more than 800 lb., Alberta steers were $186.25 per cwt. Ontario cattle in the same range was similar in price. However, Alberta heifers in that weight class traded at $167.32 per cwt. while Ontario bid $146.53 per cwt.
The forward delivery market was lightly tested this week. Heifers in Alberta and Saskatchewan weighing more than 900 lb. for August-September delivery traded from $173.50-$179.75 per cwt. In August-September 2018, heifers weighing more than 900 lb. or better averaged $170 per cwt.
Larger cow slaughter
Cow slaughter volumes have been rather large to start off the year. Slaughter volumes in Western Canada for the weeks ending Jan. 12 and Jan. 19 have exceeded 9,500 head. The last time two 9,500 plus head kill weeks occurred in January was 2010. Cow slaughter volumes usually peak in late January to early February. Slaughter volumes have been larger, and non-fed prices through commercial auction facilities have been trending higher. Western Canadian cow prices have strengthened at a faster pace relative to the U.S. market. At the end of December, Alberta D2 cow prices were at a $7 per cwt. premium to the U.S. but recently reached a $15 per cwt. premium.
Western D2 cows averaged $84.28 per cwt., while Ontario D2 cows were $63.88 per cwt.
Cows that were put on feed during the fall are being marketed. Profit margins remain limited, depending on when the cows were purchased.
Bred cattle trade light
Bred volumes continue to be relatively light. Most of the bred cattle traffic this week was herd reduction sales because cow-calf producers are bringing 10 to 30 head to town to either manage feed supplies or sell later-calving cows that don’t fit their program.
Good young bred cows saw sales hit $1,600 per head, middle age cows traded from $1,300-$1,500 per head, and older bred cows at the tail end of their reproductive life traded at or slightly above slaughter prices of $1,000-$1,300 per head.
Beef prices rally
U.S. cut-out values rallied this week with Choice trending $5.25 per cwt. higher than the previous week, and Select firming $4.50 per cwt. higher. Moderate to good demand was reported on a somewhat light offering as wholesalers restocked inventory.
For the week ending Jan. 11, Canadian AAA and AA cut-out values traded $18 per cwt. and $14.50 per cwt. higher than the same week last year. For the same week, AAA cutouts were reported almost $6.50 lower than Choice and AA was almost $9 per cwt. lower than Select.
Trim demand was generally light this week, and prices eased lower. Beef will continue to be aggressively featured at retail next week, but ample supplies of competitively priced pork could gain feature momentum.