Klassen: Feeder cattle prices hold value

Western Canadian feeder cattle prices were steady with week-ago levels. Auction market volumes remain quite high for this time of year; however, buying interest has subsided, with many feedlot operators comfortable with current numbers on feed heading into the New Year.

Colder temperatures also set a negative tone as buyers factor in a slightly higher death loss for lightweight calves.

It is not uncommon to see the feeder market soften by $5-$8 per hundredweight (cwt) during the last half of December. Feedlot workers are planning their holiday schedules and they don’t want to be caring for fresh cattle or processing over the holiday period.

Some deals were noted, such as 620-pound large-framed Charolais-cross steers, which sold for an equivalent $152/cwt landed in southern Alberta. Steers in the 800- to 900-lb. category averaged $138 in the same region.

Alberta packers bought slaughter cattle in the range of $115-$117/cwt, down $3-$5/cwt from a week earlier.

Good quality bred cows and bred heifers are up a solid $100 per head over the past month in Western Canada. Bred cows are now reaching upwards of $1,700 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this market touch $1,900 by April.

U.S. feeder cattle prices were $2-$4 lower on average due to the lower futures market and softer beef wholesale prices. Certain regions of Texas have received moisture over the past few weeks and ranchers in this region are buying grass cattle and bred cows.

The buying activity of cattle producers in the U.S. southern Plains could have a large influence on the North American feeder market over the next two to three months.

— 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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