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Debbie McMillin – for Aug. 9, 2010

Fed Cattle

Fed cattle prices ran into a seasonal downtrend following the spring high of $95.75 per cwt. However, firm cutout values and currentness in the feedlots gave enough of a boost to keep summer cash prices $3 above last year averaging $87.88 by the first week of July. Carcass weights were down significantly from the historical highs posted at the start of 2010, reaching 819 pounds by the opening week in July. Year-to-date steer carcasses are running 844 pounds.

Fed steer slaughter to July 10 was up four per cent nationally at 820,339 head, while heifers were up eight per cent on the year at 573,013 head. Exports were also 25 per cent ahead of 2009 with 345,831 fed cattle moving to the U. S. by the start of July.

On July 1, on-feed inventories in Alberta and Saskatchewan totalled 787,569 head, two per cent more than 2009. Month to month, the numbers on feed were down 16 per cent from June 1, reflecting timely marketings and a slow placement rate in the past month. June marketings for domestic and export slaughter ran to 224,659 head, eight per cent more than in June 2009. June placements were down 31 per cent.

Feeder Cattle

Muddy conditions in many southern Alberta feedlots coupled with ample grass on pastures slowed feeder cattle movement through auction markets in recent weeks. The lighter volume maintained prices into the summer with 550 steers averaging $120 in mid-July, about the same as the $120.80 posted in June, and a notch up on the $118.96 set in May. Heavier steers were trending up at mid-July with 850-pound feeder steers bringing $102.76/cwt, $1 more than a year ago. The same-size steers averaged $100.05/cwt in June and $98.77 in May.

Feeder cattle exports are still down, running 33 per cent below last year to July 3. The 850 feeder basis typically tightens as prices improve through the summer. By mid-July it was -14.99/cwt which was slightly wider than the year before but an improvement of 4.70/ cwt from the first of the month.

Non-fed Cattle

Cull prices held throughout the summer. D1,2 cows peaked at $60.01/ cwt 10 weeks ago but after dipping down to $55.48/cwt jumped back up to average $57.78 by mid-July, putting them nearly $10/cwt above last year. While excellent pasture conditions have kept some cows at home favourable slaughter prices continue to send the numbers to town. Total cow slaughter nationwide totalled 290,462 head which is down just three per cent from the same time last year. To date, exports of cows to the U. S. for slaughter total 106,503 head, 22 per cent more than a year ago. Bull prices were up as well, averaging $71.50/ cwt in June, the highest mid-year price they have seen since 2002. By mid-July they were trading from $60 to $80 and averaging $71.18/cwt. With bulls at these price levels many producers may be thinking seriously about the benefits of culling deep and improving the breeding power of the herd in the spring versus the cost of winter feed and pen space. Bull slaughter to date in Canada totals 12,623 head, up 97 per cent — nearly double what it was last year. Exports to the beginning of July totalled 14,945 head, down 12 per cent from a year ago.

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