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

Steer price down

Weighted average steer prices closed last week $4.86 per hundredweight lower, the lowest point in six weeks. Since the beginning of the year, fed prices have been trending right in line with 2017.

Sale volumes were light last week because competition between the three western Canadian packers was light. Dressed sales were reported from $258-$263 per cwt. delivered. Cattle that were bought last week were being scheduled for the end of February-beginning of March delivery.

Two weeks ago, packers were buying cattle for two-week pickup, but last week they were booking cattle for one-month delivery. With good feeding conditions this winter and impressive daily gains, longer lift dates were not welcome news for producers, and there was more pressure to market cattle.

Light volumes of western Canadian fed cattle traded into the United States, and prices were at a slight premium over local sales. Instead of taking a lower cash bid last week, some producers opted to price cattle on the Canfax average for the week that the cattle would be delivered.

Alberta fed cash to futures basis levels weakened, going from -7.54 to -9.86 per cwt. For the end of January it was the weakest basis level since 2016.

Western Canadian steer carcass weights averaged 919 pounds, 33 lb. heavier than last year and 42 lb. larger than the five-year average.

Western Canadian fed slaughter volumes for the first four weeks in January totalled slightly more than 126,000 head, the largest since 2011. Ontario fed prices have been trading at discount against the western Canadian market, and there have been reports that eastern cattle are coming west to be slaughtered.

In the U.S., fed trade was delayed until last Friday, and sale volumes were light. Dressed sales in Iowa and Nebraska were being reported from US$198-$199 per cwt., which was $1-$2 per cwt. higher than the previous week.

Lots of cows

Non-fed cattle supplies were ample last week, and slaughter cow prices eased $1.25 per cwt. lower last week. D2 prices averaged $83 per cwt. and D3s ended last week at $73.33 per cwt.

Dressed cow bids eased modestly with reports from $162-$167 per cwt. delivered. Butcher bull prices trended fully steady, averaging $95.08 per cwt.

Western Canadian non-fed slaughter for the week ending Jan. 26 was up four percent from the previous week at 10,485 head. It was the second week in a row with western non-fed slaughter over 10,000 head.

Year to date, western non-fed slaughter was seven percent larger at 37,628 head. Canadian cow carcass weights eased three lb. lower than the previous week, fully steady with the same week last year.

Slaughter cow supplies remain ample and the kill schedule is around three to four weeks out. Slaughter cow offerings at auction have tightened, and prices could seasonally begin to rally.

Feeders steady

Alberta feeder prices last week were mostly steady to lower on an ample offering. Light calves less than 500 lb. traded unevenly steady last week, while 500-700 lb. calves trended mostly steady to $2.50 per cwt. lower.

Prices for steers over 700 lb. eased $2 per cwt. lower, and similar weight heifers realigned modestly higher.

Most feeder trade last week was for immediate delivery. Auction volumes were seven percent larger than the previous week at 29,464 head, 76 percent larger than the same week last year.

Reports indicate fewer slaughter cows were on offer last week, and the weekly feeder offering was likely larger than it appears. Year to date auction volumes total 98,328 head, 17 percent larger than a year ago.

The USDA reports Canadian feeder exports to the U.S. for the week ending Jan. 19 totalled 3,196 head, and year to date volume is 35 percent larger at 5,474 head.

Southern Alberta feed barley for varied delivery was reported from $256-$260 per tonne last week, compared to $218-$225 per tonne for the same week last year. Feed wheat and imported corn have contributed to reduced costs of gain, but feeding margins without risk management are generally in the red.

However, fall-placed feeders have performed very well, and the mild weather has reduced bedding costs. Feeder volumes at auction are expected to increase through February as grass cattle demand improves.

Light beef trade

In U.S. beef trade, cut-out values traded mixed last week with light to moderate demand on a light to moderate offering. The Choice cutout mid-week was trading at the highest level since June 2018 but closed $2.36 per cwt. lower last Thursday. Average price was $215.39

Select ended the week 74 cents higher, averaging $212.88. Retail and restaurant demand was anticipated to be sluggish as consumers stay indoors during cold weather.

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