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.
The western Canadian fed market fared better than expected last week with U.S. cash and live cattle futures markets setting new lows. The weighted average steer and heifer prices strengthened by $1.75-$2 per hundredweight with steers averaging $146.97 and heifers averaging $145.50 per cwt.
After being at a discount to the U.S. for the past eight months, Alberta fed prices have moved to almost a $2 per cwt. premium against the Nebraska market. Trade trickled in over the course of last week and most of the dressed sales were reported at $245-$246 per cwt. delivered. U.S. bids were noted but were well off the pace from getting cattle. Cattle bought last week were being scheduled for the week of July 22-29 delivery.
One of the concerns in June was that slaughter volumes had to increase to get through larger fed cattle numbers. Larger slaughter volumes have been observed with western Canadian packers each adding some Saturday shifts to their schedules. On top of bigger slaughter volumes, exports of fed cattle and cows to the United States have been constantly running above year ago levels.
With western Canadian carcass weights hovering near seasonal lows and more Holsteins becoming market ready, this has been supportive to 50 percent trim values.
Based on the five-year average, western Canadian fed slaughter volumes traditionally don’t peak until early September. Larger fed supplies are still coming up, suggesting there is still more downside risk to the fed market. Packers remain comfortably bought out in front.
In the U.S., dressed sales in the north ranged from US$1.78-$1.83 per cwt. lower than the previous week. Live sales in the southern U.S. were reported from $108-$110 per cwt., which was $2-$3 lower. Fed cattle prices there were trading at the lowest point since October. Strengthening cash corn prices and weaker live cattle futures contracts have moderated demand for calves and bunk replacements. Both Holstein and beef calf prices are trading at the lowest point this year.
Ample cow supply
Ample supplies of slaughter cows were reported at auction last week, and prices continued to soften. D2 prices slid $2.25 per cwt. to average C$84.25 per cwt. Prices for D3s ranged from $65-$82 to average $75 per cwt.
Western Canadian D2 prices traded at par with eastern D2s last week, while D3s traded at a $5 per cwt. premium.
Dressed cow bids eased to around $158-$163 per cwt. delivered. Butcher bull prices continued to deteriorate, down by $1.40, to average $104.40 per cwt. Western Canadian non-fed slaughter volumes for the week ending June 15 surged 21 percent larger to 7,778 head and year-to-date volumes were eight percent larger at 206,514 head. Non-fed packer supplies are around four weeks out but could tighten when grilling season ramps up.
Scattered moisture conditions throughout Alberta will provide opportunity for those with feed. Bred cows and cow-calf pairs should see prices stabilize and could firm modestly higher if moisture conditions continue to improve.
Dry pasture conditions and soaring feed costs pressured feeder prices significantly lower last week. Seasonally lower fed prices have also pressured calf prices. Demand softened for light to idle weight calves that are too small for mid-season turnout on grass. Buying interest for 600-800 pound grass type steers eased and prices dipped $4-$5 lower than the previous week.
Increased grain prices and limited silage stocks have encouraged feedlots to buy heavier weights now as opposed to having to put it on a lighter calf.
Auction volumes were nine percent smaller last week, and year-to-date auction volumes were down three percent at 578,11 head. A significant volume of slaughter cows were on offer again last week.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that Canadian feeder exports to the U.S. for the week ending June 8 realigned 19 percent larger from the previous four-day week to 4,557 head and year to date were three percent higher at 128,716 head.
Scattered rain developed across the prairies last week and provided some relief for producers. More rain is still required, but auction volumes should return to seasonal levels.
In beef trade, U.S. cut-out values traded lower last week with Choice down US$1 per cwt. to average $220.72, and Select was down $3 per cwt. to average $201.48.
Canadian cut-out values for the week ending June 16 saw AAA and AA down $9 per cwt. and $4 per cwt., respectively, at $282.20 and $270.33.
The cutouts were dragged by sharply lower middle meat prices, while end meat prices were steady to higher. From mid-May to mid-June, the AAA-AA spread averaged $14 per cwt. compared to $22 per cwt. last year and the three-year average of $26 per cwt. The smaller premium on AAA may be driven by a combination of slow demand and increased Prime and AAA production.