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

Fed prices slip

Alberta direct cattle sales saw moderate volume trade last week with weighted average prices slipping $5 and $6.25 per hundredweight lower than the previous week on steers and heifers, respectively. Fed steers averaged $133.49 and heifers averaged $130.77 per cwt. Live sales were generally $5-$10 per cwt. lower than the previous week from $128.75-$130 per cwt. Weekly dressed trade ranged from $220-$232 per cwt. delivered with prices trending $10-$15 per cwt. lower than the previous week.

Cattle priced last week were scheduled for one to two week lift, but there were reported bids for various August delivery dates. Building market-ready supplies and ample packer inventories have reduced cash market competition, and feedlot managers once again were not able to price as many cattle as they would have liked.

Last week’s Alberta cash-to-cash fed basis continues weaker than the five-year average at an estimated -$3.75 per cwt. Canadian fed cattle slaughter for the week ending June 13 was reported six percent larger than the previous week at 57,416 head and was three percent larger than the same week last year.

Canadian steer carcass weights were reported two pounds heavier than the previous week at 881 lb. and were 20 lb. larger than the same week last year.

For the week ending June 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that Canadian fed cattle/cow exports to the United States were steady with the previous week and 23 percent larger than the same week last year at 10,143 head. Year-to-date export volumes were nine percent larger at 232,891 head.

Large harvests combined with slow beef demand have pressured cut-out values lower than a year ago and additional beef price downside is anticipated this week. Packers will maintain leverage, and little price upside is anticipated as market-ready calf supplies and carcass weights trend larger through summer.

In the U.S., moderate volume trade was reported last week and live sales in the south saw prices steady to $5.50 per cwt. lower than the previous week in a full range from $98-$102 per cwt. Dressed sales in the north were generally $5-$10 per cwt. lower than the previous week with trade from $157-$167 per cwt. delivered.

Steer carcass weights for the week ending June 6 were one lb. larger than the previous week at 892 lb. and were 46 lb. larger than a year ago.

Cows trade steady

Butcher cows traded steady through commercial auction facilities, while butcher bull prices exhausted their eight-week rally, trading $1.50 per cwt. lower than last week. D2 cows averaged $85 and D3s averaged $75.44 per cwt. Butcher bulls averaged $116.14 per cwt.

In Western Canada, packers are putting a greater focus on working through the backlog of fed supplies and keeping cow slaughter light. Over the past three weeks cow slaughter volumes have ranged from 3,500 to 4,400 head on a weekly basis compared to 6,100-7,400 head last year.

In Eastern Canada it’s a different story. In May and June, Eastern Canada was seeing some of its biggest cow slaughters of the year. There were reports of cows from the West being shipped into Ontario for slaughter, which could be inflating eastern cow slaughter numbers.

There are still some dry pockets, but in general grass conditions are in good shape across much of the Prairies. Given favourable grass conditions, cows could be slow to come off summer pastures, creating tighter supplies for the third quarter market.

Cutouts drop again

In U.S. beef trade, cut-out values continued to trend sharply lower last week as fed slaughter rebounded to near pre-COVID-19 production levels and consumer demand softened for higher priced beef at retail. The Choice cutout dropped US$22 per cwt. to average $213.56, and Select slipped almost $16 per cwt. lower to average $204.08.

With ample supplies of long fed heavy cattle hitting the American kill floor, the Choice/Select spread narrowed significantly from $15.68 per cwt. to $9.48 per cwt. last week. Cut-out values dipped below year-ago and additional downside is anticipated as large harvests continue.

Feedlot losses continue

Though feed barley prices are at the highest point this year, fed cattle prices are $13-$14 per cwt. lower than last year, and feedlot losses are around $400 per head. However, demand for calves and feeders remains strong. All classes of feeder cattle are trading higher than last year, and basis levels remain historically strong as well.

On a cash to cash basis, Alberta calf and feeder prices are trading at a $13-$17 per cwt. premium over the U.S. market. This is the largest premium that calves/feeders have been all year and not surprisingly, Canadian feeder exports have slowed. Compared to the same week last year, feeder exports are down 80 percent, or 3,650 head. Given the large price premium, this will continue to encourage U.S. feeder imports.

Alberta 550 lb. calf prices have trended sideways for the past six weeks, averaging $226.50-$230 per cwt. Highs are likely behind us given that the five-year average calf prices historically trend lower up to the end of the year, bottoming in early December.

Western Canadian feedgrain prices are at a premium to the U.S. corn market. As a result, U.S. corn is being shipped into southern Alberta.

As for bred cattle, volumes have not been large, but there were a few pairs on offer last week. Cow-calf pairs averaged $2,115 with top end sales reported up to $2,600. Cow-calf pairs are trading $182 higher than last year.

Some producers decided to finish up calving by hauling their late calving cows to town. Demand for bred cows has been strong enough from the cow-calf segment to keep most of the cows out of the slaughter mix. Young cows scheduled to calve within the next month or so saw sales reach $1,700 per head.

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