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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

Prices held fairly steady for fed steers and heifers last week, with steers up 71 cents per hundredweight to $140.13 and heifers up 75 cents to 138.98 per cwt. Steers broke $140 for the first time in 28 weeks.

Alberta direct live trade volume was light. Dressed sales were reported between $235-$236 per cwt. delivered, which was $2 to $2.50 stronger. Stronger bids for the end of the month and early January pulled some cattle off grid and into the cash market.

A positive cash basis for the past two weeks has been price supportive.

Western Canadian fed slaughter was one percent lower mid-month and fully steady for year-to-date. Steer carcass weights were six pounds lower than last week but 32 lb. heavier than the same week last year.

Canadian slaughter totaled 62,268 head to Dec. 12, down seven percent from the previous week. Year-to-date slaughter is down four percent.

In Ontario, COVID-19 issues stalled the cash market as the packing sector was hit with positive cases. Scattered thin dressed trade was reported steady with the previous week.

Seasonal price strength is expected to the end of December with limited kill schedules through the holidays. Market-ready feedlot inventories have tightened, which supports price, but post-holiday demand will be sluggish. Prices next week are expected to hold steady. Price strength and the positive cash fed basis suggests no bids will be accepted for the mid-month Alberta set-aside program.

In the United States, scattered live trade was steady in the south at $108 per cwt. and light live trade in the north was about $2 on either side of the previous week’s average of $105-$108 per cwt. Market-ready fed supply is manageable in the south but the north still struggles with large weights and ample offerings. Steer carcass weights are about 16 lb. heavier than a year ago.

U.S. stockers and feeders traded modestly lower to $5 per cwt. stronger than the previous week. Improved cattle futures and winter grazing demand should remain price supportive, but high feed costs should limit price upside.

Back in Canada, western Canadian packers actively sought additional non-fed inventory to get them through the holidays. D2 cows ranged $65-$83 per cwt. to average $74.67, while D3 cows were $60-$72 per cwt. to average $64.88.

Butcher cows traded at a discount to the U.S. market for November and early December but shifted back to a premium. January should be the biggest cow slaughter month of the year, which is typical. Butcher cow prices usually strengthen through December and January.

Feeder and stocker cattle were steady to weaker and Alberta 750 and 850 lb. steer prices established second half lows. Prices were better than in Ontario markets, which were $3-$25 per cwt. lower. Ontario buyers are usually active in the western feeder market in January but that is not expected in 2021.

Western Canadian feeders traditionally fed in Ontario stayed in the West through December.

The forward delivery March market was tested with eight-weight steers in Saskatchewan trading slightly less than $170 per cwt. Cash-to-futures basis on March deliver is around $-10.60 per cwt., in line with the five year average.

More than 5,000 head of bred cattle traded in Alberta last week, with bred heifers averaging $2,110 per head and some reaching $3,000. Bred cows averaged $1,935 per head with a high of $2,800. The strongest demand is for heifers and cows scheduled to start calving February, March and April.

Alberta bred cattle prices are trading more than $200 per head higher than last year while Saskatchewan prices are steady to $100 lower.

U.S. Choice and Select cut-out values traded lower last week, both easing $5 to US$209.51 per cwt. and $193.70 per cwt., respectively.

Total U.S. cattle slaughter is estimated modestly lower than the previous week at 659,000 head, and volume should tighten on reduced retail and food service demand. The beef complex in the U.S. is not expected to gain momentum until the second half of January or February.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s cattle-on-feed numbers for Dec. 1 indicate cattle in feedlots of 1,000 head or more totalled slightly more than 12 million, which is slightly larger than a year ago.

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