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.
Alberta fed cattle traded steady for the week of April 1, and dressed sales were equal to the top end of last week’s trade at $270 per hundredweight delivered. Cattle were booked into the week of April 22, and most cattle were bought locally because of limited American interest.
The weighted average Alberta fed steer price ticked slightly higher than last week to $160.82 per cwt. and set an annual high price, surpassing the previous high from January. Fed steer prices this week are $5 per cwt. higher than a year ago.
Western Canadian steer carcass weights remain near 900 pounds, about 20 lb. larger than a year ago.
The cash to futures basis strengthened over a dollar this week to -$7.36 per cwt., mainly supported by the stronger basis trades earlier in the week.
Market-ready numbers will continue to be modest in between yearling and calf supplies this month and should be supportive to the market. Spring demand is a few weeks away, and the upside to the fed market may be limited. U.S. packers could again come into play on the fed market at any time, given the current basis levels.
Heavy feeders trading lower
Feeder prices traded steady to lower on heavier cattle, but calves were hitting annual highs.
Averaging more than $230 per cwt. this week, 550 lb. steer prices traded at the highest point since March 2018. Calf prices have moved higher, but Alberta calf prices are still at a $14.50 per cwt. discount against the U.S. market on a cash to cash basis.
Western Canadian feedlot demand for grass weight cattle has been strong with some top sorted groups of grass cattle from Saskatchewan and Manitoba going to Alberta for finishing.
Alberta 850 lb. cash to futures basis levels weakened, going from -$12.68 to -$17.27, the weakest level since June 2018.
Heifer volumes picked up this week, and in some instances they were 60-80 percent of total volumes at certain auction facilities. However, moving into April, demand for seedstock heifers tends to improve. Some replacement heifer sales have been highlighted over the past couple of weeks with prices ranging from $1,300-$1,700 per head, about $50-$100 better than last year.
Feeder exports to the U.S. have picked up with about 10,000 western calves going south last week. In total, about 57,890 head have been exported.
Feeder cow interest
There has been improved interest at commercial auction facilities from feeder cow buyers and western Canadian packers.
Butcher cow prices through the auction ring were steady to 50 cents per cwt. higher, while rail bids were reported steady to $1 per cwt. higher. The feeder cow market averaged in the upper $90s per cwt.
Over the past 10 years, the average increase from first quarter lows to second quarter highs stands at 22 percent, so that puts D2 cows on track to peak at $100 per cwt. However, this is dependent on good spring moisture and whether the 85 percent trim market remains above last year.
Last week, western D2 cows averaged $88 while D3s averaged $78.79 per cwt. Ontario bids for D2 cows averaged $67.94, and D3 cows were $55 per cwt.
For the week ending March 22, Canadian AAA cut-out values traded at a $22.01 per cwt. discount to U.S. Choice, while the AA cutout is at a $17.86 per cwt. discount compared to U.S. Select.
The Canadian AAA cutout averaged $283.99 per cwt., while AA cutout averaged $269.90.
U.S. cattle continue to grade well as a higher percentage of cattle graded Prime and Choice compared to last year. Even with more higher-quality beef on the market, Choice cut-out values continue to trade above last year.
The Canadian weekly grade mix showed 68 percent went AAA and nearly four percent were Canada Prime. Yield grades 2 and 3 dominated at more than 45 percent of the mix, while less than six percent were yield grade 1.