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Klassen: Beef demand drives feeder market higher

Compared to last week, Western Canadian yearling prices were $5 higher on average; calves traded $3 to as much as $6 above week ago levels. Strength in fed cattle prices quickly spilled over into the feeder complex, especially on shorter keep replacements. On Friday, Alberta packers were buying fed cattle from $247 to $250 on a dressed basis, up $12 from seven days earlier. It appears that stronger consumer demand is driving the beef and cattle markets higher because production has stayed relatively constant over the past month. Usually, Alberta feedlots set the price structure but this week, Ontario interest stretched deep into Western regions and buyers from south of the border took advantage of the weak Canadian dollar.

Larger frame somewhat fleshy black steers weighing 975 pounds were quoted at $197 in Southern Alberta. Larger frame Angus cross steers with medium flesh averaging 875 pounds traded for $201 in Central Alberta; a small group of mixed Charolais steers weighing around 825 reached up to $209 in Eastern Saskatchewan.

Many auction barns held feature calf sales this past week but supplies are expected to tighten in the latter half of November through December. Waiting on purchases hasn’t been profitable experience this fall. When buyers don’t have the option to wait, markets can become extremely volatile. Calves coming on stream are fleshier at this time of year but this didn’t have much of an effect on prices.

Mixed red and tan 630 pound steer calves were quoted at $230 in Eastern Saskatchewan while 650 pound red heifers sold for $210 in the same region. Larger frame Charolais calves weighing just over 500 pounds were quoted at $248 landed in Southern Alberta feedlot; mixed higher quality heifers weighing from $500 to 530 pounds were reported from $205 to $210 in the Lethbridge area. There was a drag on the lighter weight heifers.

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