Klassen: Feeder cattle outlook remains positive

Western Canadian feeder cattle prices were $2-$4 per hundredweight (cwt) lower on average last week.

Run-of-the-mill red and black large-framed heifers averaging 638 pounds with no special qualities sold for $138/cwt landed in southern Alberta. Red and black Angus steers averaging 600 lbs. sold for $147/cwt in central Alberta. Simmental-red Angus fancy large-framed steer calves averaging 580 lbs. sold for $159 in the Peace River region.

Fed cattle in Alberta reached up to $118, with stronger buying interest from U.S. packers.

U.S. feeder markets were $3-$5/cwt higher. A group of steers in Nebraska averaging 706 lbs. sold for $159/cwt; a mixed blend of 650-lb. heifers brought back $159. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported top quality 8-weight steers averaging 852 pounds sold for $147 in Oklahoma.

Notice that the western Canadian market is trading at a sharp discount to U.S. values, which should cause feeder exports to increase during December. End-of-year tax buying is coming forward and feedlots are experiencing positive margins; therefore, feeder cattle prices could strengthen by $5-$10 higher over the next month. Barley prices remain firm but world feedgrain and corn prices are expected to trend lower, longer-term.

U.S. third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of two per cent compared to the second quarter, which shows the economy is in an expansionary phase. U.S. at-home food spending has been running 14 per cent above last year, reflecting the stronger demand. Choice wholesale beef prices made new highs last week, causing packing margins to improve.

— Jerry Klassen is a commodity market analyst in Winnipeg and maintains an interest in the family feedlot in southern Alberta. He writes an in-depth biweekly commentary, Canadian Feedlot and Cattle Market Analysis, for feedlot operators in Canada. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or at 204-287-8268 for questions or comments.

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