Canfax reached a major milestone this year, marking 50 years of analyzing markets and trends in the North American beef industry.
Today Canfax is a division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, served by a team of four livestock market specialists and two people in its research division. But, as Lee Hart writes, it started simply, with a few cattle feeders sharing the market prices they’d received that day for their own cattle.
“You pretty well knew if a buyer came into your yard on the weekend, you were going to be offered a low price,” said Wyett Swanson, a feeder in the Provost, Alta. area, of his early days in the cattle feeding business. “If they showed up on the weekend, it was pretty certain that prices would be higher on Monday, but we really had no way of knowing.”
Swanson, Czar-area feeder Peter Adams, and others worked with the Western Stock Growers Association to create a Canadian price discovery system in 1969.
In the early days, five telex machines were set up at different locations around Alberta. Cattle feeders would report offers and bids to the telex locations, and the telex operators would relay that information to the Western Stock Growers’ office in Calgary. Staff in that office would compile the price information and share it with member cattle feeders.
A separate price discovery system also operated in Huron County, Ont. In 1971, both systems were folded into a national service operated by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. Today cattle feeders and auction markets still connect with Canfax daily or weekly to report prices on all classes of cattle.
“Canfax has built a brand around the collection, aggregation, analysis and dissemination of timely cattle market information,” said Brian Perillat, Canfax manager and senior analyst. Canfax uses pricing information from feedlots and auctions, along with other national and international information sources, to build reports for members. Members can access information on everything from feeder prices and trends to futures quotes.
“While cash price information is still important, an increasing number of producers are also using marketing techniques that include forward pricing and the futures market,” said Perillat. “So, an educational component of our services also helps producers better understand the role of basis in both fed cattle and feeder markets.”
Readers can find the Canfax articles in the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association Action News, in the July 22 and August 19 issues. Archived issues are available on the website at cattle.ca.