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.
Fed prices strengthen
Alberta direct cattle sales saw active trade early last week, and average prices firmed modestly higher. Live trade was reported from $148-$152 per hundredweight, steady with the previous week. Most sales last week were dressed from $225-$255 per cwt. delivered.
Weighted average steer prices strengthened $2 per cwt. higher than the previous week to average $146.41 per cwt., and heifer prices rebounded $5.50 per cwt. higher to average $141.64. Some eastern buying interest was reported again last week, and a few local cash cattle will head to Ontario.
Most cattle that traded last week were scheduled for one to four week delivery, but packers still have a significant backlog of April-May inventory to work through. Western Canadian fed slaughter for the week ending May 30 was 28 percent larger than the previous week at 42,905 head. Both the Canadian and western Canadian fed slaughter were three percent larger than year ago.
Last week’s Alberta cash to cash fed basis strengthened to an estimated -$6 per cwt. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that western Canadian fed cattle-cow exports to the United States for the week ending May 23 were nine percent larger than the previous week and 50 percent larger than the same week last year. Year-to-date export volumes were up eight percent to 212,748 head.
With stronger cash prices, increased slaughter and larger fed cattle-cow exports, last week’s market tone was slightly bullish. Packer slaughter has rebounded close to pre-COVID capacity, which could begin to chip away at backlogged supply.
The U.S. Choice cut-out values surrendered $97 per cwt. last week and should improve the beef price point. However, leverage will be key. Ample out-front packer inventory will inevitably reduce demand as market ready feedlot supplies seasonally increase.
In the U.S., fed cattle trade was scattered last week. Fed prices had a weaker tone, trading from US$105-$118 per cwt. Dressed trade ranged from $175-$187 per cwt. Total cattle slaughter for last week was estimated at 636,000 head, which was 112,000 head more than the previous week but still 29,000 head below last year.
U.S. steer carcass weights dropped seven pounds for the week ending May 23 to 894 lb. as more fed calves entered the slaughter mix but remain 52 lb. above last year’s level.
Cow prices steady
Cull cow prices were mostly steady last week. Stronger prices over the last few weeks have brought a few more cows to market, and they have been met with reasonably good demand.
Western Canadian cow slaughter has been modestly increasing but still remains well below a year ago. Two weeks ago western Canadian cow kill was 3,553 compared to 6,241 last year.
D2 cow prices are trading about $7 per cwt. below a year ago and last week averaged $87.03. D3s averaged $77.22 per cwt. Ontario D2 cow prices are back to a slight premium to Alberta at $89 per cwt. and are $12 per cwt. above a year ago.
Cow prices tend to seasonally weaken in June. Given that some cows had been held off the market for the last two months and the dollar was stronger last week, U.S. demand likely be reduced somewhat.
Light feeder run
There was only a light run of feeders at auction last week because many cattle have been put out on grass and some auction marts are only running every second week. Overall, the lighter volumes supported slightly stronger prices on basically all feeder types.
Interest from Eastern Canada continues to support the feeder market across the West. Despite all the market volatility and uncertainty, calf and stocker prices tend to be higher than a year ago, while heavier feeders are generally $1-$7 per cwt. below last year.
Given these market conditions, some producers are forward selling calves and feeders for fall delivery. As seasonally expected, fall delivered yearlings are at roughly a $10 per cwt. premium to the spot market, while fall delivered calves are at about a $15 per cwt. discount to the spot market.
Uncertainty in the marketplace remains high. Grass cattle have generally been put to pasture, and further demand for grass cattle may be limited. The rising Canadian dollar last week and continued strong feed grain prices could weigh on the feeder market.
Reports of corn being imported into southern Alberta may help cap feed grain costs. Feedlots continue to feel the pressure of the backlogged cattle they are managing, which may limit feeder demand. While feeder prices tend to seasonally see a strengthening trend through summer, it could be a flatter market this year.
U.S. cutout plunges
In the U.S. beef trade, cut-out values aligned aggressively lower last week as beef production rebounded. The Choice cut-out value plummeted US$97 per cwt. lower than the previous week to average $295.90. Select fell more than $83.50 to average $276.78 per cwt.
Good demand continued for 90 percent fresh trim, but prices were pressured $10.76 per cwt. lower. Cut-out values are expected to trade lower again this week with limited upside.