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

Feds on upward trend

Alberta direct cattle sales saw moderate volume trade last week with weighted average prices trending $1 per hundredweight higher than the previous week. Most of last week’s trade was dressed from $227-$228 per cwt. delivered, around $2 per cwt. higher than the previous week.

Various delivery time lines for three to six weeks out were all priced comparably. U.S. buyer interest was reported last week to enhance local market competition, but no verified trade was reported to the south.

For the week ending Oct. 3, western Canadian fed slaughter slipped nine percent lower than the previous week to 44,284 head, eight percent higher than the five-year average for the same week. Year to date, western fed slaughter is down three percent at 1,556,288 head. Western Canadian steer carcass weights for the same week were reported two pounds lighter than the previous week but were 13 lb. heavier than the same week last year.

Ontario fed cattle traded mixed last week with average steer prices firming $1.50 per cwt. higher than the previous week, while heifers averaged around $4 per cwt. lower. The bulk of weekly dressed sales were reported at $230 per cwt. delivered with a full trade range from $230-$234 delivered.

Global meat demand continues to strengthen on tightening supplies, and a positive spinoff has developed for North American beef. Packers were not expected to add additional slaughter shifts o the long weekend but will add Saturday shifts this week to make up for the holiday.

Good domestic beef demand and holiday buying should encourage continued large beef harvests, and prices this week were expected to be steady to stronger.

The U.S. fed market continues to see more strength. Live cattle prices were up another $1-$2 per cwt. last week with most live trade in the US$108-$109 per cwt. range and dressed trade up to $170 per cwt. in the north.

The feeder market faced headwinds because the grain markets have been on a strong rally and feeder futures were under significant pressure. The cow market saw pressure as well.

Non-fed volumes light

With the fall calf run just getting underway, it’s positive for non-fed markets that volumes were light. However, as more calves are weaned, culls will start coming to town. From a price standpoint, Alberta D2 cow prices have been averaging in the low to mid $80s per cwt. for the past six weeks. Last week they averaged $82.93, with D3s averaging $73.42. Butcher bulls averaged $107.42.

Second half lows are still ahead as butcher cow prices historically don’t bottom until mid-November and bulls bottom in December.

In Ontario, butcher cow prices traded $6-$7 per cwt. lower and are at the lowest point since late April. Since the start of July, cow slaughter in Western and Eastern Canada is down 21 percent and four percent, respectively, compared to last year.

Year to date, Canadian non-fed beef production is down 20 percent compared to last year, while fed cattle beef production is only down 2.6 percent compared to last year.

One of the big stories over the past 30 days has been how well U.S. beef cut-out values have held together. The situation is much different for the 90 percent trim market because prices are at the lowest point since January 2019.

Barley price jumps

Spot and forward barley prices took a big jump last week. From harvest lows of around $205 per tonne, prices have increased 20 percent because barley for October delivery is trading from $248-$250 per tonne. Sales for January to February 2021 were reported up to $260 per tonne into southern Alberta.

Demand remains strong for big calves that will finish in the early spring market. Alberta 700-800 lb. calves/feeders traded $1.50 per cwt. higher last week and established new annual highs.

The price slide between a 700-800 lb. ($201.42 per cwt.) and a 600-700 lb. steer calf ($204.95 per cwt.) was $3.50 per cwt. Last year the price slide for the first half of October between those two weights averaged $5.50 per cwt. and the five-year average is $7 per cwt.

For the fourth quarter, steer calves weighing 700-800 lb. usually set highs in early October and trend lower right into the end of the year. Based on the five-year weekly price series, 700-800 lb. steer prices on average drop eight percent or $16.50 per cwt. from October to December.

On a cash to cash basis, Alberta calf and feeder prices are trading $9-$11 per cwt. premium against the U.S. market, comparable to last year.

With harvest starting to wrap up in many areas, the next focus will be to get calves to town. Calf volumes are expected to seasonally build over the next few weeks. Forage and roughage supplies are in good shape across much of the Prairies, which could encourage producers to add value to their calves and possibly carry them into the new year.

Fall calf run volumes are not expected to be as large as the past couple of years. Higher feedgrain prices, larger calf volumes on the horizon and June to October 2021 live cattle contracts trending lower late last week suggest price upside is limited.

Cutouts lower

In U.S. beef trade, cut-out values trended lower last week. Choice averaged US$216 and Select averaged $203.10. Fresh 90 percent trim has seen a significant $18.60 per cwt. decline in the past two weeks. Holiday buying is expected to intensify in coming weeks and cut-out values are expected to gain momentum.

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