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 market steady

The western Canadian fed market was mostly steady last week with most trade at $252-$253 per hundredweight dressed, in line with the previous week’s trade. Volumes were modest. All three larger packers in the West were active on the cash market last week and cattle being sold were scheduled for delivery in late August or into September.

Producers were motivated sellers given the ongoing expensive feed costs and stagnant cash market.

As the U.S. market showed a bit of strength again last week, the Alberta cash to cash basis weakened to almost -$6 per cwt., the weakest basis level seen this year.

Local fed supplies remain ample and packers continue to aggressively focus on the fed kill. Despite the large kills, western Canadian steer carcass weights are four pounds above a year ago. Ontario carcass weights are 23 lb. larger than a year ago.

Most of the fed trade in the Ontario market saw prices averaged slightly lower than the previous week with most of the dressed trade at $258-$260 per cwt.

Feedlots have been slowly losing leverage through the summer, which is rather seasonal and tends to be negative to the market through the summer and into fall. Fed supplies will remain ample and will limit market upside.

In the U.S., the fed market has a stronger tone as live cash sales in the south and north were higher by US$1-$2 per cwt. Live trade in the south was mostly $121-$122 per cwt. and in the north was $124-$125.

Rail trade in the north was mostly steady at $197-$198 per cwt. The U.S. feeder index remains seasonally strong and near its annual highs around $156 per cwt. The U.S. has imported 20 percent fewer feeder cattle from Mexico compared to a year ago.

Cow prices lowest since 2013

Western Canadian and U.S. cow prices have been moving in opposite directions lately. U.S. cow prices set new annual price highs last week while Alberta cow prices have dropped by more than $20 per cwt. from their highs in June.

As a result, Alberta cow prices are now trading at an $8 per cwt. discount to the U.S. market. This is the largest discount in 10 months and more Canadian cows are now being exported to the U.S. for slaughter. With more cows exported, it is preventing a backlog of non-fed inventory.

Alberta D2 cow prices spent the last few weeks averaging in the low $80s per cwt. Last week they averaged $82.08 while D3s averaged $73.19 per cwt. For the beginning of August, this is the lowest price since 2013.

Larger non-fed supplies are still ahead and the price upside is limited. Over the next two months, western Canadian cow prices could be closely linked with the U.S. market, trading at an export basis to the U.S.

Western Canadian cow slaughter for July totalled more than 24,000 head, 30 percent larger than last year and the largest July cow slaughter since 2009. In Eastern Canada, cow slaughter for July was up two percent compared to last year.

Cattle auctions busy

Summer has been busier than usual for many commercial auction facilities. In British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, auction volumes in July totalled 96,800 head compared to 39,400 head last year. August is shaping up to be a big month as well.

Last week Alberta auction volumes totalled just under 25,000 head. For the first week of August, it was the largest auction volume since 2002.

Heavier weight feeders continue to trade at or near annual price highs while calf prices have been under pressure for the past 30 days. On a cash-to-cash basis, Alberta 550 lb. steer calves are trading at a $6 per cwt. premium to the U.S. market, the smallest premium all year.

With poor pasture conditions and tighter feed stocks, there has been a noticeable uptick in exposed heifers hitting the feeder market. Most if not all of these heifers are going to feedlots. If moisture conditions don’t change, the fall calf run could be only one month away. Cattle tend to move to the cheapest feed grain source. U.S. corn is now being railed into central and southern Alberta and large volumes are being booked for fall and winter.

COVID boosts cutout

In U.S. beef trade, Choice and Select cutout values closed US$17.36 and $16.95 per cwt. higher respectively. Choice averaged $292.58 and Select averaged $273.77. The increase in U.S. COVID cases has ignited a frenzy of beef buying at retail and in food service.

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