Klassen: Feeder market remains firm

Canada's feeder exports down off year-ago levels

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Compared to last week, western Canadian feeder cattle prices were steady to $2 higher on average. Strength was noted in the mid-weight categories as lighter calves and yearlings (900 pounds-plus) were relatively unchanged. Major feedlots were dominant buyers, with little demand surfacing for grassers.

Feeding margins are in positive territory and recent rains have enhance yield prospects for barley and wheat. Most operations booked their June and July feed grain requirements earlier, while the cost per pound gain will decrease come September.

The quality of feeders coming on the market is quite variable. Smaller groups of late-blooming stragglers are available; higher-quality lower-flesh yearling packages are hard to come by; therefore, quality discounts have widened. Calves under 600 lbs. are limited, while decent numbers of 600- to 800-pounders were available. The steer-heifer spread on 650- to 750-lb. feeders has narrowed over the past couple weeks, especially in regions where limited numbers are available.

In central Alberta, mixed steers coming off light grain ration on full health program weighing a shade over 900 lbs. were quoted at $177; southeast of Calgary, larger-frame Angus-blended medium-flesh steers weighing 800 lbs. were quoted at $195, while similar-quality and -weight heifers were valued at $185. Near Lethbridge, larger-frame Charolais-based steers averaging 860 lbs. were valued at $186.

In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, there were limited numbers on offer, which made the market harder to define. In central Alberta, black steers weighing 660 lbs. were valued at $220 and mixed heifers averaging 600 lbs. were quoted at $196. In southern Alberta, a small group of larger-frame Simmental-blended steers weighing 625 lbs. were valued at $235; similar-quality heifers averaging 585 lbs. were quoted at $211. Tan mixed steers weighing 750 lbs. were valued at $215 in east-central Alberta.

Alberta packers were buying fed cattle at an average price of $163 last week, unchanged from seven days earlier. Alberta fed cattle prices are a sharp premium to values in Nebraska and Kansas. A similar price spread has developed between Alberta feeder cattle prices and U.S. replacement values. Canadian feeder cattle exports to the U.S. are down 46 per cent from year-ago levels.

— 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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