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.
Beef herd shrinks
The Canadian beef herd continues to shrink, in spite of the most favourable cattle prices in history.
Statistics Canada’s report on July 1, 2015, cattle inventories showed the herd is down two percent, which places the population at 13 million head, the lowest since 1991.
Only 15 reports have shown inventories below 13 million head in the last 49 years.
The beef cow herd is down to 3.8 million head, the lowest since 1992. Ontario experienced the greatest decline at 4.5 percent followed by Alberta and Saskatchewan at 4.5 and 4.4 percent, respectively.
Fed cattle prices
Sales volumes for fed cattle have been light, and many purchases were scheduled for later delivery in September.
Many producers are reallocating cattle to meet contract obligations, while others are keeping cattle on feed longer to push cash cattle prices up by fall. All cash sales went to local packers.
U.S. interest appears low, even though the loonies is trading at around 76 cents.
Exports to the United States are down by nearly half compared to last year. So far, 125,440 head have been sent south.
Weighted average steer prices closed the week at $183.84 per hundredweight, down $1 from last week. It is not uncommon to see lower prices this time of year for finished cattle.
Western Canadian steer carcass weights have increased by another 30 pounds in the last month, making them the heaviest so far this year. The average carcass weight was 898 lb. compared to last year, when they were 844 lb. Heifer carcasses were 826 lb. Last year at this time they were 786 lb.
The calf and feeder market experienced a strong week with prices higher in most categories. However, wide price ranges were noted.
A significant number of calves have been traded electronically with delivery later this fall. This activity has reduced auction market volumes.
Recent rain in Western Canada has also reduced the need for producers to move cattle early.
Ontario and U.S. interest continues to support the calf and feeder market.
Exporters have sent 237,181 feeders to the U.S. this year, which is comparable to export activity this time last year.
The strongest interest was noted on 700 lb. cattle for forward delivery steers. The spread between steer and heifer calf prices remains large, with reports of heifers trading up to 30 cents lower than their steer counterparts.
Alberta steers in the 600-700 lb. range averaged $307.67 per hundredweight. Ontario cattle were $1 lower.
Alberta steers in the 700-800 lb. category averaged $280.20 per cwt., while Ontario bids were $280.75 per cwt.
This week’s western Canadian cow slaughter totalled slightly more than 4,900 head, the largest slaughter seen since the end of April. The butcher cow market has been trading virtually at par with U.S. utility cow prices.
Western cows averaged $141.60 this week, while Ontario cows averaged $122. 74 per cwt.
U.S. cattle on feed
The most recent cattle-on-feed report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found increased inventories with 10 million head in feedlots. This is the fifth consecutive month to see an increase compared to last year. Most the placements were in the 800 lb. category. The greatest growth was seen in Idaho, Washington, South Dakota and Minnesota.
Actual placements for July were down by one percent when 1.55 million went on feed. Good pasture conditions have encouraged producers to hold back cattle.