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.

Fed market active

Alberta direct cattle sales saw active trade last week. Dressed sales were generally $2-$4 per hundredweight higher than the previous week in a tight $260-$262 per cwt. delivered trade range. Light live heifer trade was reported comparable to rail sales. Last week’s offerings were cleaned up with all packers vying to procure cattle. Harvest schedules are for various May delivery dates.

Western Canadian fed slaughter for the week ending April 17 was modestly larger than the previous week at 45,629 head and year to date totalled 10 percent larger than a year ago at 609,884 head. Canadian fed cattle/cow exports to the United States for the week ending April 10 rebounded larger following the Easter long weekend to 9,780 head.

Moderate Ontario trade volume was reported last week with the bulk of sales $3 per cwt. higher than the previous week at $248 per cwt. delivered. Not all feeders were willing sellers, and some of last week’s offering was carried over. Eastern fed slaughter for the week ending April 17 was reported seven percent larger than the previous week at 12,466 head.

Most of last week’s fed offering was yearlings, but a few calves were in the mix. Weekly fed cattle marketings over the past five weeks have been seasonally light, and feedlot supplies remain generally current.

Cattle feeders are in no rush to pull fed calves forward and are counting on stronger bids through May as second quarter supplies continue to tighten. However, COVID-related labour disruptions continue, and the packing sector could reduce chain speed as it struggles to maintain production.

In the U.S., light to moderate live trade in the south was steady to $2 per cwt. lower than the previous week at US$119-$120 per cwt. Northern live trade was reported from $120-$124 per cwt., about $1 per cwt. lower than the previous week.

Cow prices rise

Tight non-fed supplies and strong North American trim prices continue to support the non-fed market. Trading at 75 cents to $1.50 per cwt. higher last week, butcher cow prices established a new annual high. D2s averaged $94.60 and D3s averaged $82.58 per cwt. D2 cow prices are now at the highest point since June 2019.

Over the past few weeks, Alberta cow prices have been trading at a $2 per cwt. premium against the U.S. utility cow market. In Ontario, butcher cows traded $2 per cwt. stronger, which was $15.50 per cwt. higher than last year and $4.75 per cwt. higher than the five-year average.

Year to date, western Canadian non-fed beef production is down 18 percent compared to last year, while eastern Canadian non-fed production is up 15 percent.

Western Canadian cow slaughter for the week ending April 17 totalled 5,217 head, the second smallest weekly cow slaughter seen this year. Year to date, Canadian bull slaughter is 40 percent higher than last year, but Canadian bull exports to the U.S. are down 18 percent. In Canadian markets, slaughter bulls averaged $114.50 per cwt. last week.

U.S. cutouts rise

In U.S. beef trade, cut-out values rallied seasonally higher for a fifth straight week with Choice up US$5.69, to average $282.31 per cwt. and Select up $5.26 to average $273.69. Large harvests fuelled by positive packer margins could limit cut-out values’ upside now.

Auction volume jumps

For the first three weeks in April, auction volumes in the four western provinces are up 17,500 head compared to last year. Slaughter disruptions last year, coupled with weak feeder prices due to COVID, kept many feeder cattle on farms or in background yards.

This year is a much different story as cow-calf and background operators are more current in their marketings. This year among the four western provinces, total auction volumes are up 137,000 head compared to last year and 23,500 head larger than 2019.

Last week, heifers weighing 400-700 lb. and steers weighing 600-800 lb. set new annual high prices. However, moisture conditions continue to concern producers.

To manage stocking rates, some grass cattle that would traditionally not be sold until summer are being sold on the cash market. Stronger feeder prices and basis levels could also be encouraging some grass operators to do a heavyweight sort on cattle and take some profit now.

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