Compared to last week, western Canadian yearling steers traded $3-$4 higher while yearling heifers were steady to $2 higher. Mid-weight calves or young yearlings from 600 to 800 lbs. were $3-$5 higher on average. Calves under 600 lbs. were relatively unchanged.
Favourable rains across the Prairies have enhanced crop prospects for barley and wheat. April live cattle futures reached over $136 last week, which also reinforced buying interest. Competition was extremely fierce for yearlings. Major operations were sending “just get ’em” type orders to cattle merchants. Ideas were that paying $2-$3 more today is better than a market $8-$12 higher 30 days forward.
The quality of cattle coming on the market was quite variable. There appeared to a resurgence of buying interest for featherlight calves. Ranchers were being offered fair market value for October delivery. Buyers appeared to be anxious to secure ownership. Alberta fed cattle prices at $275 dressed is the main factor encouraging the overzealous demand.
Volumes were quite thin, with many auction barns in holiday mode. Some Saskatchewan ranchers were hauling feeders into Alberta.
In central Alberta, larger-frame tan mixed steers weighing 935 lbs. coming off small grain ration with full health program traded hands at $183; mixed heifers weighing 900 lbs. with similar qualities were valued at $166. In southern Alberta, larger-frame medium-flesh Simmental-blended steers weighing 825 lbs. were quoted at $194; Angus-based larger-frame black heifers weighing 830 lbs. were valued at $170 in the same region.
In east-central Alberta, black Limo-based steers weighing 720 lbs. were quoted at $219; mixed medium-frame Hereford heifers with lighter flesh averaging a hair over 700 lbs. were reported at $185.
In the Lethbridge area, Charolais steers averaging 615 lbs. were quoted at $228; south of Edmonton, mixed long-time-weaned heifers on full health program weighing 615 lbs. were valued at $194. There were limited number of calves available under 600 lbs. which made the market hard to define. There was a small group of mixed steers weighing 540 lbs. which reached up to $243 in central Alberta.
There is a seasonal tendency for the feeder market to strengthen between the middle of June and the middle of August. This pattern may be exaggerated this year due to the sharp fundamental change in the feed grain complex between now and fall.
— 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.