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

Fed prices steady

Alberta direct cattle sales saw moderate volume in dressed trade last week with prices steady to $2 per hundredweight higher than the previous week. Sales were in a tight $275-$277 per cwt. delivered trade range with most reported at $275 delivered for the weeks of June 21 and June 28. Weighted average prices closed last week almost $1 per cwt. higher than the previous week.

Things are returning to normal after the cyberattack on JBS in Brooks, Alta. A weekend shift was added to recoup lost production.

Ample U.S. market-ready slaughter supplies continue to slow Canadian fed cattle/cow exports to the United States. Alberta fed basis levels remain record high. For the week ending May 22, volumes dipped 11 percent lower than the previous week to 4,955 head and significantly 61 percent below the same week last year. Year to date, exports were down 14 percent to 183,540 head.

Ontario saw generally light fed trade last week.

Summer grilling interest is expected to soften, and wholesale price resistance continues to limit box movement. Packer chain speed is expected to rebound to seasonal production levels this week in the wake of COVID-19 employment disruptions and the recent cyberattack.

Food service reopenings will create short-term demand for beef, but record high cut-out values will make beef a less competitive protein option.

In the U.S., fed trade was scattered last week at prices mostly steady. Most were at US$119-$120 per cwt., and dressed trade was $190-$192 per cwt. U.S. fed supplies will be ample through June.

Good cow demand

Calving culls continue to come to town. Some older late-calving cows are likely finding their way into the slaughter mix as well. Despite production concerns early last week, demand for slaughter cows remained strong and D2 cow prices were $1 per cwt. higher than the previous week, averaging $102.75. It was a new annual high and the highest price since 2017. D3s averaged $88.60.

Ontario cow prices regained what they lost two weeks ago and are just shy of the annual high from three weeks ago. Ontario cow prices at $88 per cwt. are basically in line with a year ago. They could see more seasonal strength into June while Alberta cow prices tend to see only limited price improvement into June.

Bull prices weakened slightly again last week and were $3 per cwt. below the annual high from six weeks ago, averaging $112.75 per cwt. The strong Canadian dollar and large non-fed kills in the U.S. could keep a lid on bull prices.

Moisture worry limits feeder trade

Calves and feeder volumes moving through auctions remain thin. They traded on either side of steady last week, but price ranges were wide depending on quality. Calves and feeders continue to be above last year and 2019 prices. Many areas are again concerned about moisture levels and with hot weather and limited moisture, some producers are looking at moving feeders off grass early to preserve pasture for their cow herds.

These conditions also limit demand for calves, and heifer calf prices are at a significant discount to steers given the light demand and high feed costs. Forward sales of grass cattle remain very limited. This is likely due to market uncertainty and volatility as well as grass and cattle performance risk.

Calf and feeder prices could remain on the defensive in June with weather affecting movement as well as grain markets. Barley prices have eased somewhat, but corn remains volatile. On the other hand, strong local fed cattle prices and the strong deferred cattle futures into late 2021 and early 2022 remain market supportive.

A significant number of bred cows and cow-calf pairs were sold last week. Solid demand was evident on good young pairs, but demand fell off on average to older cows. A few younger pairs sold for more than $2,500 per pair, while many lower quality pairs traded in the $2,000 range.

U.S. cutout still high

In U.S. beef trade, cut-out values continued to rally to new annual highs. The Choice cutout was US$10.50 per cwt. stronger than the previous week, averaging $340.55, and Select was up $9 per cwt, averaging $313.16.

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