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.
Dressed sales surge stronger
Alberta direct cattle sales saw active trade last week with weighted average prices rallying $3.50 per hundredweight higher than the previous week. Dressed sales started out generally steady with the previous week from $265-$267 per cwt. delivered but surged $5-$10 per cwt. stronger than two weeks ago to $270-$275 per cwt. delivered. Delivery dates were mostly reported for the second half of May, with a handful booked into June.
Western Canadian fed slaughter for the week ending May 1 was seven percent larger than the previous week at 44,054 head and year to date totalled 20 percent larger than a year ago at 695,235 head.
Western Canadian steer carcass weights for the same week were six pounds heavier than the previous week at 907 lb. and were 39 lb. larger than a year ago.
Canadian fed cattle-cow exports to the United States for the week ending April 24 eased 14 percent lower than the previous week to 8,761 head.
Ontario trade was mostly $4 per cwt. higher than the previous week at $252 per cwt. delivered with a full weekly trade range reported from $248-$253 per cwt. delivered. Fed supplies are trending more current, and prices should seasonally strengthen.
Cattle feeders are in no rush to pull fed calves forward, and live weights are being reported in the low to mid 1,400 lb. weight range. This should indicate that supplies will tighten in coming weeks.
COVID-19 and vaccination-related labour disruptions could still reduce chain speed this week, but the fed harvest should rebound.
In the U.S., there was light live trade last week with prices steady to $1 per cwt. lower in the north from US$117-$119 per cwt. Moderate dressed trade in the north was generally steady to $1 per cwt. lower than the previous week with sales reported from $187-$192 per cwt. delivered.
Good cow demand
Non-fed numbers increased compared to the second half of April, but supplies in general continue to be manageable. Between packers and feeder cow buyers, demand for non-fed cattle continues to be good.
Over the past four weeks, Alberta D2 cow prices have averaged on either side of $95 per cwt. Last week, D2s averaged $96.25 and D3s averaged $83.10 per cwt. Also last week, Alberta cow prices were trading at a $13 per cwt. premium against the U.S. utility cow market, the largest premium since January 2020.
Cow slaughter remains much different between Canada and the U.S. In the U.S., beef cow slaughter is the largest it has been all year, while Canadian cow slaughter is close to the smallest seen this year. For the month of April, western Canadian cow slaughter was 26 percent lower than in 2019 and 23 percent lower than in 2018.
Butcher bull prices have not strengthened to the same degree, and part of the reason could be related to the strengthening Canadian dollar.
Feeder prices steady
For the first week of May, auction volumes in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba totalled slightly more than 39,000 head, 20 percent larger than last year but 10 percent lower than the five-year average.
Calves and light weight stocker prices saw the largest week-over-week declines, while heavier weight feeders closed last week mostly steady. Despite record barley prices and strengthening dollar, calf and feeder prices continued to hold up. Replacement heifer sales are being highlighted and demand remains mixed, with the top sort at sales being purchased for breeding and the middle or second-cut heifers going to feed.
Prices for open heifers have been flat over the past 45 days with lots of breeding quality heifers trading from $1,400-$1,650 per head. Alberta feeder basis levels continue to be historically strong, setting new records on a weekly basis.
Feeder exports to the U.S. totalled 3,046 head, the largest weekly volume this year. U.S. feeder cattle imports for March totalled slightly more than 40,000 head, the second largest volume on record.
In bred cattle, good interest was noted for younger cows with calves at foot. Last week, cow-calf pairs averaged $2,325 per head. Pairs are trading $100 per head higher compared to the May 2020 average.
New cut-out high
In U.S. beef trade, cutouts surged higher to new annual highs. Choice averaged US$306.37 and Select averaged $289.36 per cwt.