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 www.canfax.ca.

Back to the grid

Alberta direct cattle sales were limited by a smaller cash offering last week as many feedlots revert out of cash and back to the formula grid market. Total weekly marketings last week were the smallest so far this year.

Light steer trade was marked at $250 per hundredweight delivered, generally steady with the previous week. Heifer sales were reported steady to $5 per cwt. lower than the previous week from $245-$250 per cwt. delivered.

Most of the cattle traded last week were scheduled for the week of April 19. Western Canadian fed slaughter for the week ending March 20 firmed three percent larger than the previous week at 41,734 head and year to date was 14 percent larger than a year ago at 447,713 head.

Western Canadian steer carcass weights have slipped six pounds lower over the past two weeks to average 902 lb. and were modestly three lb. larger than a year ago. Canadian fed cattle/cow exports to the United States for the week ending March 13 were generally steady with the previous week at 9,458 head.

Ontario saw moderate volume cash trade last week at $240 per cwt. delivered, steady with the lower end dressed trade. Weighted steer average prices closed last week mostly steady, while heifer prices eased $1 per cwt. lower.

Packers have maintained large harvests through the first quarter, but COVID-19-related labour issues continue to be a concern for the industry, and fears of reduced kills persist. Stronger U.S. fed prices supported higher cattle futures last week.

The U.S. fed cattle market moved higher last week after spending the last seven weeks around US$114 per cwt. Live trade in the south was mostly at $115-$116 per cwt., while dressed trade in the north jumped $2-$3 per cwt. to mostly $185 per cwt.

Last week’s slaughter was an estimated 19,000 head larger than the previous week as a packing plant that was down for maintenance came back on stream. However, slaughter last week was about 40,000 head below last year’s 685,000 head, though that was the largest weekly kill since 2011.

Good cow demand

Non-fed supplies through auction continue to be moderate, and they continue to be met with good demand. Western Canadian cow slaughter last week was down 22 percent from the previous week and 25 percent below a year ago. Year to date, western Canadian cow slaughter is 17 percent below a year ago, while eastern Canadian cow slaughter is 20 percent above year-ago levels. Good demand and moderate non-fed supplies should be supportive to the cull market.

D2 cows averaged $87.47 per cwt. last week, and D2s averaged $78.88. Alberta slaughter bulls averaged $104.82 per cwt. Bred cows sold from $1,300 to $2,425 per head and bred heifers in a range of $1,500 to $2,300 per head.

The feeder cattle market last week was generally flat, while calves had a slightly softer tone. There was an uptick in auction volumes compared to the previous week, and year-to-date Alberta auction volumes have been higher than a year ago.

Calf and feeder prices are well above a year ago because the impacts of COVID-19 uncertainty really hit the markets last March.

Prices for 550 lb. and 850 lb. steers are at the highest level for late March since 2016. Demand for feeders remains strong despite the high feed costs and Canadian dollar.

The rallying futures market and empty pens have feedlots continuing to speculate on the market as they continue to buy feeders with projected losses. There is good demand for breeding type heifers, which reduces the number of feeding heifers.

Grass cattle demand remains strong as high grain costs increase the value of pounds that feeders can gain on pasture.

Feedlots continue to lose money on fats being sold, and feeder cattle prices have not fully adjusted for the higher feed costs and dollar. That said, feeder prices seem to be well supported at these levels as feedlots anticipate stronger prices for their fed cattle.

Grass cattle prices have stalled, possibly in response to concern about dry conditions this spring.

U.S. cutout rises

In U.S. beef trade, cut-out values rebounded with Choice averaging $236.45 and Select averaging $226.25.

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