Feeders too slow to set price; U.S. futures trying to rally

Cash cattle markets on both sides of the border and futures in the United States are reporting sluggish volumes but steady prices.

Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying said few feeders are entering sales rings and most of what is being sold on cash markets are cull cows and bulls.

“With our holiday on Sunday, Monday and theirs (U.S.) on Wednesday, it kind of put a monkey wrench into the market, as far as getting prices established,” he said.

However, on cattle for deferred deliveries, Wright said his company made internet sales on 700 feeders that saw 950-pound steers for September sell for C$180 per hundredweight in Manitoba and heifers at 925 lb. sell for C$175.25 for August delivery.

He said the current market is mostly for cows, which are selling for 80-90 cents per pound.

Although many people are talking about how cow prices should be better because it’s hamburger season, Wright said cows are competing for slaughter space with fed cattle.

“The packers are making a very tidy profit on what they’re killing right now. The meat demand is quite strong.”

Robin Hill at Heartland Livestock Enterprises in Virden, Man., said his company’s sale was held to clear out calves still in the yard from the Virden and District 4-H sale on July 3.

In all, 242 animals sold with about two-thirds of those being destined for slaughter. Good cows and fed cows sold for 80 to 86 cents.

He said small volumes make it difficult to quote prices for feeders, but the market was steady compared to last week when bids for 400-500 lb. steers came in at C$210 to C$230 cwt. Heifers of 600 to 700 lb. sold for C$170 to C$190 cwt.

Producers will start haying in July and that is likely to be the biggest market driver for the month. If producers are busy and the cattle have lots of feed, nobody will be in a rush to push cattle to market, he said.

Wright said he’s noticed a bit of nervousness over potential tariffs and a global trade war affecting beef markets but those concerns are not affecting buying habits.

He said strong export and domestic demand are currently driving the fed cattle market. The supply peak is not far off, he said, and he’s not expecting fed cattle to go down much more over the next week or 10 days.

“But last year at this time, we were selling cattle for over C$3 dressed, and today we’re selling for C$2.30, C$2.40, C$2.44, depending on what part of the country you’re in.”

In the United States, Ben DiCostanzo, senior strategist at Walsh Trading in Chicago said cash markets there have not seen enough cattle to establish pricing.

He said packers will eventually need to enter the market and that could spark a rally in futures markets, but when that would happen remained the big question.

He said futures contracts were reaching highs of US$107.57 per hundredweight for August live cattle, with a resistance point of US$107.35. August Feeders were reaching highs of US$153.62 with resistance at US$153.50.

“They’re struggling to get above those resistance levels, but if they do, we could see a larger rally take place, which would defeat the packers’ plans.”

He said cash prices being offered by packers were currently around US$108, while producers were looking US$112 or higher.

“So we’ve got quite a big range.”

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