Klassen: Weather weighs on feeder cattle

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Compared to last week, western Canadian feeder cattle markets traded $3 to as much as $6 lower. Eastern Prairie regions experienced demand from Ontario and Quebec, which limited the downside; however, Alberta markets faltered as buyers, having factored in a higher deathloss due to adverse weather.

Light wet snow along with warmer temperatures during the day and freezing temperatures at night can take a toll on calves, especially in the lighter weight categories. In some regions, forage supplies are rather snug and it’s been difficult for cow-calf producers to wean in a timely fashion. Calves coming on the market at this time of year are quite thin and susceptible to adverse weather.

In Manitoba, black medium-frame steers averaging 718 lbs. sold for $207 while similar-quality heifers averaging 710 lbs. sold for $175. A small group of red steers averaging 520 lbs. sold for $223 and red heifers averaging 536 lbs. sold for $189.

In central Alberta, vaccinated Angus mixed steers averaging 641 lbs. sold for $201; a small group of vaccinated mixed heifers averaging just over 650 lbs. were quoted at $179. A small group of tan steers weighing around 550 lbs. traded for $210; mixed heifers averaging 545 lbs. sold for $188.

In southern Alberta, pen space is at a premium and the local market reflected the higher yardage costs. Vaccinated Hereford steers averaging 525 lbs. were quoted at $213; a smaller group of mixed vaccinated 530-lb. heifers were valued at $188.

Weakness in June and August live cattle futures also set a negative tone for nearby feeder markets. Feeding margins are under pressure for the summer period. Keep in mind the U.S. experienced a sizeable year-over-year increase in the January-through-June calf crop. U.S. feeder cattle markets were US$3-$5 lower last week and Alberta markets followed the leader.

— 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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