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.
Steer prices high
Western Canadian fed steer prices have spent three consecutive weeks averaging more than $163 per hundredweight, very close to annual highs. With strong prices and historically strong basis levels, fed calves are being marketed ahead of schedule. There are indications that fed calves are being sold 50 to 100 pounds lighter than normal.
Last week, dressed sales were reported at mostly $275 per cwt. delivered. Cattle were being scheduled for the middle to end of June delivery. Alberta fed cash-to-futures was reported at +22.51 per cwt. compared to the five-year weekly average of +6.39 per cwt.
Western Canadian steer carcass weights declined by six lb. to average 871 lb., which is 38 lb. smaller than last year. However, plant slowdowns last year saw yearlings make up a larger percentage of the slaughter mix. This year more fed calves are coming forward.
Canadian Prime and AAA percent as a percent of all A grades was 69.3 percent. This is the lowest Prime/AAA percentage this year but is still respectable, given that the three-year weekly average is 64.9 percent and the five-year weekly average is 62.2 percent.
In Ontario, dressed sales ranged from $255-$260 per cwt. delivered, steady to $5 per cwt. higher than the previous week. Most of the cattle traded were being booked for the week of June 7 delivery. Ontario fed prices are the highest since early June 2020.
Market-ready supplies remain current and carcass weights are expected to decline further.
In the U.S., live sales in Kansas and Texas ranged from US$119-$120 per cwt., steady to slightly higher than the previous week. Most live sales in Nebraska were reported at $120 per cwt., and dressed sales ranged from $190-$191 per cwt., steady with the previous week.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pasture conditions are rated 28 percent good to excellent, the lowest rating in more than 30 years.
Cows come to town
Cow numbers have made up a large portion of auction volume recently. The supply has been moderate as calving culls continue to be sold. Cows coming out of feedlots remain limited.
Demand continues to be strong as trim prices are strengthening, and last week the western Canadian cow kill was 6,875, the largest week since early March. Tight fed supplies are also supportive of the cow market.
Western Canadian cow prices remain at a significant premium to the United States and Ontario. Last week, D2 cows averaged $101.71 and D3s averaged $89.75 per cwt. Slaughter bulls averaged $113.75, steady with the previous week.
Feeder market mixed
Market prices were mixed last week for calves and feeders. Volumes were light at some auctions, and quality was also highly variable. Lighter calves were generally reported $1-$3 per cwt. softer, but heavier weight feeders did see support. Steer calves saw the most pressure, while heavier steers saw the biggest price improvements. Heifers were generally steady from the previous week. Feeder prices remain above a year ago and mostly in line with 2019.
Recent rain across a big part of the Prairies did not have much impact on the grass market. Grass is slow to come, and many of the grass orders have already been filled. That said, the rain should reduce grass cattle being flipped early, and available numbers will be limited. There is empty feedlot pen space and with stronger fed prices and some feedlots seeing small profits on current fed cattle marketings, it has supported heavier feeders.
Feedgrain prices eased slightly over the previous week, but the grain market remains volatile. Feeder basis levels remain strong, and the feeder market in general remains strong relative to the U.S. Feedlots continue to look south to procure feeder cattle. June calf prices tend to be steady with May, and that is likely to be the case this year, with limited upside.
Good U.S. beef demand
In U.S. beef trade, the Memorial Day weekend marked the unofficial start of summer and the grilling season. Choice and Select cut-out prices rose, with Choice averaging US$329.88 and Select averaging $304.10. Beef demand continues to be strong. Argentina’s 30-day ban on beef exports was supportive of U.S. prices. So was the lifting of various COVID related restrictions on restaurants and stadiums in many states.