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 firmer

Alberta direct cattle sales saw active trade last week, and prices firmed higher for a third straight week. Fed steers averaged $140.56 per hundredweight and fed heifers averaged $140.26. Live trade was reported $2.50-$4.75 per cwt. higher than the previous week, and dressed sales were $3-$4 per cwt. higher at $238 per cwt. delivered.

Alberta fed steers have traded at a discount to Nebraska for a second week and the cash-to-cash fed basis was estimated around -$2 per cwt. Western Canadian fed cattle slaughter for the week ending Sept. 28 was 19 percent larger than the previous week at 49,120 head and year to date was six percent larger, totalling 1,556,190 head. Canadian steer carcass weights were significantly larger last week, up 12 pounds from the previous week and one lb. heavier than year ago.

Canadian fed cattle/slaughter cow exports to the United States for the week ending Sept. 21 were modestly two percent lower at 9,538 head. Year to date exports were 23 percent larger, totalling 331,919 head.

Moderate formula supplies are anticipated through October, and good interest is anticipated for this week’s cash market. Both major packers added a Saturday kill two weeks ago, and strong beef value should continue to support large harvests. However, packer inventory is building larger, and leverage will seasonally shift away from the seller and is expected to force feedlot supplies less current.

In the United States, live trade in the south was reported $2-$3 per cwt. higher than the previous week at US$105-$106 per cwt. Dressed sales in the north were $5 per cwt. higher than the previous week’s Nebraska average at $170 per cwt. delivered.

Bulls exported to U.S.

Non-fed prices in Western Canada have fared better than in Eastern Canada. From their second half highs, Alberta cow prices have dropped $6.25 per cwt., while Ontario prices have eased $17 per cwt. Last week D2 cows traded from $80-$94 per cwt. to average $85.93. D3s went for $69-$81 per cwt. to average $75.30. Slaughter bulls averaged $104.08 per cwt.

Numbers are not larger in the scheme of things but since September, Canadian bull slaughter volumes have been trending below last year. Smaller Canadian slaughter has been offset with more bulls being exported to the U.S. Over the past five weeks 1,100 more bulls have been exported to the U.S. compared to last year.

Larger non-fed supplies are still in front of us because slaughter volumes traditionally don’t peak until late November or early December. From January to July, Canadian beef imports from Australia and New Zealand are down 29 percent and 21 percent, respectively, compared to last year.

Live futures rally

From their lows in early September, February to June 2020 live cattle futures have rallied seven to nine percent while cash barley prices are trading at the lowest point since September 2017. Large snowfall accumulations over the previous week saw some commercial auction facilities cancel or postpone sales. The largest snow accumulation was reported in southern Alberta, making pen conditions less than desirable for placing calves and feeders.

Last week calf and feeder prices traded steady to higher, but the bright spot was the yearling market. Trading 50 cents to $2 per cwt. higher, 800-900 lb. steers and 900 lb. and heavier heifers established new annual highs. In three out of the past six years, 850 lb. steers have established highs during the month of October.

Looking at the calf market, the largest year over year price decline has been noted in the Ontario market. Steer and heifer calves weighing 500-600 lb. are trading $20-$29 per cwt. below last year, while Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba prices are $9-$15 per cwt. below last year.

With one packer still idle in Ontario and reports that some fed cattle in Eastern Canada would not be lifted until late October or early November, this could potentially moderate demand on the western Canadian calf market as the fall calf volumes increase.

Buyers of heavier calves might consider fed price insurance for the early May market as a risk management strategy, through the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program.

Cutouts move lower

In U.S. beef trade, cut-out values moved lower last week with Choice down US$1.45 per cwt. to average $212.06 and Select down $3.18 to average $187.21 per cwt. Ground beef sales are seasonally slow and there is strong competition from pork at retail because pork supplies are at record levels.

Canadian cut-out values for the week ending Sept. 27 traded steady to higher with AAA up C$1.61 per cwt. to average $275.68 and AA down two cents to average $247.92. Seasonal demand for end cuts started to develop. The AAA/Choice spread strengthened from -$16 per cwt. the previous week to -$9 per cwt. The AA/Select spread strengthened from -$8 per cwt. to -$4.

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