Klassen: Feeder cattle demand improving

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

The feeder market received a shot of adrenaline last week as corn futures came under pressure while live cattle futures surged. During the first half of the week, western Canadian yearlings were quite sluggish and calf prices steady to $3 lower compared to seven days earlier.

Some yearling packages moving direct off-farm in certain areas of Saskatchewan had only one or two inquiries of interest, $4-$5 below last week’s average. I had calls that were very discouraging. Vital signs in the replacement market started to improve on Wednesday and by Friday, prices were steady to $2 higher than week-ago levels across all weight categories. Comments from the country were more optimistic, but actual price reports appeared to be lacking order buyer enthusiasm.

In central Alberta, full health program medium-flesh mixed steers averaging 850 lbs. were valued at $175; Charolais-based vaccinated fleshier heifers averaging 840 lbs. dropped the gavel at $164. In Manitoba, black Limo-based lower-flesh steers averaging 875 lbs. dropped the gavel at $171 and Charolais-blended heifers averaging 800 lbs. were reported at $157. Larger-frame Simmental-based steers averaging 880 lbs. were quoted at $177 landed in Lethbridge area feedlot.

In the Strathmore area, larger-frame mixed steers with light butter averaging 730 lbs. were valued at $191 and similar-quality heifers weighing just over 750 lbs. were quoted at $162. In central Saskatchewan, a larger group of black vaccinated weaned steers weighing 625 lbs. were reported at $208 and their 615-lb. similar-quality sisters averaging 620 lbs. reached up to $181. In northern Manitoba, Charolais-based steers weighing just under 600 lbs. were quoted at $219.

The market on lighter calves was very resilient throughout the week. South of Edmonton, red mixed steers on full health program coming off their mothers weighing 540 lbs. were reported at $225 and their lighter brothers of similar quality weighing 475 lbs. were valued at $247. Late in the week, tan mixed bawling steers weighing 515 lbs. reached up to $230 in central Saskatchewan and similar-quality and -weight heifers touched the magical $200 level.

April 2021 live cattle futures reached the highest levels since February 2020 on Friday. Strength in futures came on the heels of stronger Alberta fed cattle prices which were quoted on a dressed basis in the range of $251-$252, up $2-$3 from seven days earlier.

— Jerry Klassen manages the Canadian office of Swiss-based grain trader GAP SA Grains and Produits Ltd. and is president and founder of Resilient Capital, specializing in proprietary commodity futures trading and market analysis. Jerry consults with feedlots on risk management and writes a weekly cattle market commentary. He can be reached at 204-504-8339 or via his website at ResilCapital.com.

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