Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Klassen: Feeder cattle demand surges

Cow-calf producers already thinking spring

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Compared to last week, western Canadian yearlings sold $3-$5 higher while calves traded $6 to as much as $10 higher. The return of moderate temperatures enhanced buying enthusiasm across the Prairies. Strength in deferred live cattle futures appeared to offset strong feed grain values.

Yearling prices were rather soft through January and the first half of February as most operations were carrying sufficient numbers; however, feedlots now have capacity to reload. The calf market is adjusting to the downward revision of the 2019 U.S. calf crop and the sharp year-over-year decrease in the 2020 numbers. Feedlots are anxious to secure ownership of lighter-weight cattle because yearling prices are expected to be “red hot” come August. Order buyers also had interest for grass cattle. The cow-calf producer appears to be stepping up for cow replacements, which is causing the steer-heifer spread to narrow. Spring is around the corner and there is no shortage of optimism.

In southern Alberta, medium-frame Hereford steers with light butter weighing 930 lbs. were valued at $178 and similar-breed and -quality 800-pounders reached up to $187. Larger-frame tan heifers with medium flesh averaging 845 lbs. were quoted at $171 in the same region. South of Edmonton, Charolais-based steers coming off light grain ration with medium to lower flesh weighing 850 lbs. dropped the gavel at $187. Yearlings over 950 lbs. were not as strong, but feeders in the 800 to 950 weight category were hard to buy. One had to put the money on the table because competition was fierce.

In Manitoba, larger-frame medium-flesh Angus steers weighing 750 lbs. were quoted at $191; Simmental-based steers averaging 740 lbs. reached up to $205 and similar-quality heifers weighing 730 lbs. were quoted at $188. Heifers were quite variable depending on quality.

In central Saskatchewan, Charolais-based steers averaging 550 lbs. were quoted at $240 and similar-quality heifers were valued at $215. Larger-frame red steers weighing 620 lbs. were reported at $223 and Simmental-based heifers weighing 650 lbs. were quoted at $193. In the Lethbridge area, a smaller group of black steers weighing 540 lbs. were quoted at $244.

Alberta packers were buying fed cattle in the range of $150-$151 f.o.b. the feedlot. Breakeven pen closeout values are in the range of $154-$156, but it depends when the feedlot booked its feed grain requirements.

— 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

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