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Klassen: Feeder cattle market surges

Western Canadian feeder cattle markets experienced a precipitous bounce over the past week. Compared to seven days earlier, yearling traded $4-$6 higher; calf markets were trading $3 to as much as $10 above week-ago levels; prices for feather-light bawlers surged with 300- to 400-pounders touching the magical $300 level in some areas.

Optimal weather enhanced buying interest after a stormy weather plagued much of southern Alberta earlier in the month. Pent-up demand came forward like a freight train and buyers were struggling to fill all the orders. Strength in February and April live cattle futures reinforced buying confidence. Operators who were waiting for lower prices realized time was not on their side with the market showing weekly gains. The fear factor reared its ugly head this week, causing the market to reach lofty levels. We’re nearing the height of the fall run, so many operators felt like it was now or never to secure ownership.

Yearling supplies are rather tight at this time of year so higher-quality groups were precious. Mixed tan larger-frame steers with medium butter weighing just under 925 lbs. traded for $193 in central Alberta; similar-quality 840-lb. steers reached up to $209 in the same region. In southern Alberta, a larger group of heavier-frame black steers with medium to lower flesh weighing 950-975 lbs. were quoted at $194 landed in the feedlot; similar-build Charolais-cross steers weighing just over 900 lbs. were quoted at $193 in southern Manitoba.

The calf market was on fire this past week with active buying interest from feedlots and backgrounding operators. In a rising market, discounts can be negligible between weaned and unweaned calves which characterized this week’s behaviour. Angus-based calves averaging 525 lbs. were quoted at $240 in southern Alberta late in the week while 575-pounders were trading around $230. In southern Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan, calves weighing 300 to 450 lbs. were trading from $280 to $300 with some groups touching an astronomical $305.

— 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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