Klassen: Feeder cattle market in price-discovery phase

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Compared to last week, Alberta feeder cattle markets were relatively unchanged while Manitoba and Saskatchewan prices were down $2 to as much as $5 in some cases.

Alberta packers were buying fed cattle on a dressed basis in the range of $248-$250, up $4-$5 from last week. Strength in the fed cattle market spilt over into the heavier weight categories. Backgrounded yearlings are starting to come on stream and these cattle were met with moderate buying interest. Heavier calves over 800 lbs. were quite sluggish but there was an appetite for 850-plus-lb. cattle with limited grain intake. Mid-weight calves weighing 600-800 lbs. were hard to define. If these cattle were not on some type of health program, buyers incorporated a risk discount.

Given the weather conditions, major operations in Alberta focused on local cattle, which also contributed to the western premium over Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Ontario demand was evident at certain sales, especially in eastern Saskatchewan. Grass cattle were also quite variable; demand for featherlight bawlers seemed to be the strongest in Saskatchewan this past week.

In central Alberta, larger-frame Angus-blended steers with medium to heavier flesh weighing 920 lbs. were quoted at $170 and Angus similar-quality heifers weighing 910 lbs. were valued at $155. In Manitoba, medium-frame Hereford-based steers with thicker butter weighing 905 lbs. were valued at $161. In southern Alberta, larger-frame tan steers weighing 870 lbs. were valued at $176 and similar-quality heifers were quoted at $163. In southern Manitoba, Simmental-based steers weighing just over 800 lbs. were reported at $164 and similar-quality heifers weighing 855 lbs. were quoted at $155.

In central Saskatchewan, Charolais steers weighing just over 650 lbs. were valued at $202 and their sisters weighing 630 lbs. were quoted at $168. In southern Alberta, larger-frame black steers weighing just over 700 lbs. were valued at $186 and red heifers of similar weight were reported at $174.

In Manitoba, Charolais-based steers weighing 575 lbs. were quoted at $213 and 570-lb. heifers were valued at $180. In southern Alberta, red Angus fully weaned steers on full health programs averaging 535 lbs. dropped the gavel at $230 — and similar quality heifers averaging 505 lbs., $185.

The feeder market is moving through a price-discovery phase. There appears to be a brighter outlook for fed cattle which is underpinning replacement values; on the flipside, the stronger feed grains market is offsetting a portion of the optimistic outlook. October and December live cattle futures closed at fresh contract highs this past week.

— 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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