Klassen: Feeder cattle market remains firm

Western Canadian yearling markets were trading $3 to as much as $6 above week-ago levels while calf prices were relatively unchanged.

The Canadian dollar was under pressure all week, closing Friday at US77.85 cents, the lowest levels since mid-July. At the same time, April live cattle futures made fresh contract highs, reflecting a week-over-week gain of $4. These two factors enhanced buying interest on shorter-keep replacements. Larger feedlot operators were quick to bid up the market with limited yearling numbers available.

Larger-frame Simmental-cross steers weighing 980 lbs. traded for a whopping $196 in central Alberta; Angus-based 870-lb. steers reached over the magical $200 level, dropping the gavel at $202 in the same region. Charolais-cross larger-frame medium-flesh heifers averaging 878 lbs. were quoted at $192 landed in southern Alberta; red heifers weighing 821 lbs. traded for $192 in central Alberta.

Feature calf sales were noted across the Prairies this past week; the larger volumes limited the upside while buyers were once again quite finicky. The calves coming onstream are fleshier at this time of year. Heavier weaned preconditioned calves drew premiums and buyers were not afraid to bid up on these quality groups. Larger groups of unweaned bawlers were available and buyers incorporated a risk discount of $3-$5 in certain locations.

Tan pre-conditioned age-verified medium-flesh steers just under 690 lbs. were quoted $228 in southern Alberta; 680-lb. heifers of similar quality were quoted at $200. In southern Manitoba, a small group of pre-conditioned semi-weaned mixed steers weighing 550 lbs. traded just under $240 and 540-lb. mixed heifers of similar quality were spotted at $203. In central Alberta, processed semi-weaned 570-lb. black mixed medium-flesh steers traded for $224. Given the higher price structure this year, buyers feel more confident with some type of processing, especially if they’re being hauled a longer distance.

— 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.

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