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 prices continue higher

Western Canadian fed prices have tracked higher for six consecutive weeks. The market is in the process of carving out second-quarter highs. Closing at more than $163 per hundredweight last week, it was the fifth highest weekly fed price in the past three years.

With the latest price run-up, feedlots are trading cattle close to break-even levels. Yearling supplies are declining and more calves are coming forward. Last week, roughly 60 percent of the sales were fed calves and 40 percent were yearlings. Active trade developed with dressed sales ranging from $270-$276 per cwt. delivered. Cattle that traded last week were scheduled for late May-early June delivery.

For the week ending May 8, western Canadian fed slaughter totalled slightly less than 40,500 head. For the first week of May, this is the largest fed slaughter since 2012.

In Ontario, dressed sales were reported at mostly $252 per cwt. delivered, fully steady with the previous week. Cattle were being booked for the weeks of May 24 and May 31 delivery. Eastern Canadian steer carcass weights averaged 998 pounds, 49 lb. larger than last year.

May is historically a good month for the fed cattle market but can also be a roller coaster. Calf volumes have been light but are expected to increase gradually from May to June.

In the U.S., dressed sales in the north ranged from US$188-$192 per cwt., steady to $2 per cwt. higher than the previous week. Live sales in the south were reported at mostly $119 per cwt.

For the week ending May 1, U.S. beef cow slaughter totalled just over 72,000 head. For the end of April that is the largest cow slaughter since 1996.

Feedlot inventory lower

The May 1 Cattle on Feed report marked the seventh consecutive month that on-feed inventories have been below last year. Totalling 988,761 head, the inventory was five percent lower than last year but three percent larger than the five-year average. It was the first time this year that cattle-on-feed inventories have been below one million head.

Good demand for cows

Non-fed prices firmed higher last week with good demand reported on a modest offering. D2 and D3 slaughter cows averaged around $1 per cwt. higher than the previous week and prices were the strongest seen since May 2019. D2s averaged $97.07 and D3s averaged $84.25 per cwt.

Dressed cow bids firmed $2 per cwt. higher last week, ranging from $187-$192 per cwt. delivered. Butcher bulls saw prices rebound $1.85 per cwt. higher than the previous week to average $114.70 per cwt.

Alberta slaughter cow prices last week were reported at a $11 to $12 per cwt. premium to Ontario and are at a $16 premium to range-bound U.S. utility cows.

Western Canadian non-fed slaughter for the week ending May 8 was one percent larger than the previous week at 6,340 head and year to date was down eight percent to 124,891 head.

Feeder trade mixed

Light weight calf prices softened last week. Larger calves heavier than 600 lb. traded mixed with steers fully steady and similar weight heifers easing modestly lower. Calf prices typically soften in May through June, but the lack of spring precipitation and surging feedgrain prices are adding price pressure. For example, Lethbridge barley for June delivery was as high at $360 per tonne last week.

Large feeders heavier than 800 lb. saw a similar mixed price trend with steers firming $1-$1.50 per cwt. higher and heifers dipping $1.50-$2.75 per cwt. lower. Alberta feeders continue to trade at a significant premium to Ontario, slowing eastern buying interest.

Alberta auction volumes continue to tighten and were 32 percent lower than the previous week at 15,738 head but were modestly larger than a year ago. Year to date, auction volumes are 26 percent larger than the same week last year at 448,370 head.

Canadian feeder exports to the U.S. for the week ending May 1 were nine percent lower than the previous week and year to date were 50 percent lower at 29,068 head.

Cutouts continue rise

In U.S. beef trade, cut-out values continued to rally higher for the seventh straight week and were the strongest since May 2020. Choice averaged US$316.78 and Select averaged $295.91 per cwt.

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