Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Klassen: Feeder cattle market under weight of imports

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Compared to last week, western Canadian feeder cattle markets traded $5 lower to $2 higher. It’s that time of year when most feedlots are carrying sufficient numbers and buyers are hesitant to increase ownership unless they can see profitability.

Auction market volumes contained weaned and unweaned calves over the past week; premiums returned for feeders with health programs or some type of pre-conditioning. Order buyers were under severe constraints and unexplainable slippage was noted in certain regions of the Prairies. Alberta feedlots set the price structure across Western Canada with limited interest from Ontario. Most farmer-backgrounding operators appear to be full and finishing feedlots in Alberta were the main buyers. Yearlings supplies are limited in December but demand was firm for shorter-keep replacements. There is an $8 discount from the April to June live cattle futures so cattle that will be sold May forward are priced accordingly.

In central Saskatchewan, Simmental-blended fleshier steers weighing 890 lbs. were quoted at $181 while mixed medium-frame fleshier heifers averaging 870 lbs. were valued at $174. In central Alberta, Charolais-based medium- to heavier-flesh steers weighing just over 800 lbs. reportedly sold for $191 and similar-quality 790-lb. heifers were quoted at $180.

In southern Manitoba, black steers weighing just over 700 lbs. were quoted at $195 while medium- to larger-frame red white faced medium flesh heifers weighing 730 lbs. reached up to $183. In southern Saskatchewan, black Angus larger-frame fleshier steers weighing 750 lbs. reportedly sold for $191.

In southern Manitoba, unweaned no-shots bawling steers weighing 560 lbs. were quoted at $210 while similar-quality black heifers weighing 570 lbs. were quoted at $183. In central Alberta vaccinated unweaned Simmental-blended steers weighing 550 lbs. reached up to $218 while similar-quality heifers averaging 510 lbs. were quoted at $195.

Statistics Canada on Friday estimated Canadian barley production at 10.4 million tonnes, up from the September number of 10 million and up from the 2018 output of 8.4 million. There is no shortage of feed grains in Western Canada. Canadian imports of U.S. feeder cattle for the month of October were a whopping 49,503 head, up nearly 10,000 head from October 2018.

— 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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