Uncertainty drags on Canadian cattle markets

Beef demand is strong but cattle prices are under pressure, Canfax says

Cattle markets have tumbled as a result of COVID-19, according to the senior analyst at Canfax.

“Feeder markets are off pretty hard, some of them are off 15 to 20 cents a pound, this week,” Brian Perillat said Tuesday. “They have been depressed over the last month. Feedlots too. Fed price is at the low $140. We’re $20 a hundredweight below where we were in January.”

Prices have been dropping since mid-February, when the coronavirus brought much of the Chinese economy to a standstill and rail blockades led to ships backing up at Canadian ports.

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“But over the last week or two, we’ve seen a significant further pullback,” despite the fact that beef demand is strong across the country and meat is selling quickly, he said.

“This morning, they’re up another $10 in wholesale price,” he said. “Wholesale beef prices have jumped up this week, yet cattle prices are under pressure.

“Hopefully we’ll see some stability, but that’s a big ‘hopefully.'”

A drop in the Canadian dollar could help.

“Packers are running on Saturdays, and they’re making a lot of money moving cattle through the system,” said Perillat. “The Canadian dollar could provide a bit of a cushion and an opportunity down the roads for cattle markets.”

He said the government has taken positive steps by keeping the Canada-U.S. border open for the food industry.

— Alexis Kienlen reports for Alberta Farmer from Edmonton.

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Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for the Glacier FarmMedia publication, the Alberta Farmer Express, since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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