Klassen: Feeder market sends mixed signals

canada feedlot
(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Compared to last week, western Canadian yearling markets were steady to $4 lower while calves were steady to $2 higher. Barley prices have jumped $3-$6 per tonne over the past week, with winter conditions hindering off-farm logistics.

Alberta packers were buying fed cattle in the range of $149-$150 last week; however, in Nebraska, fed cattle sold for US$128 on a live basis, up US$2 from seven days earlier. Feedlots selling into the local market are experiencing negative margins but fed cattle moving south are bringing back $20-$40 per head. The uneven margin structure has contributed to the variation in yearling prices across the Prairies.

Medium- to larger-frame fleshier exotic steers weighing 925 lbs. traded for $167 in central Alberta; larger-frame Angus-based medium-flesh heifers weighing 890 lbs. were quoted at $146. Charolais blended fleshier steers averaging 890 lbs. were valued at $167 in southern Manitoba. Some of these yearlings have been pushed too hard over the winter and the discerning eye was quick to discount fleshier quality.

Buying interest for calves and grassers appears to be strengthening each week. Barley prices are expected to be $40-$50 lower next fall and recent strength in the April 2020 live cattle futures set a positive tone. Finishing operators were very aggressive on lighter calves this week in an effort to secure yearling supplies for the fall period. Compared to last year, there appears to be more demand from the farmer/cattle producer. Rents are notching higher each year and farmers are looking for value out of non-cultivated land. Southern Saskatchewan has received 150 per cent of normal precipitation over the past 30 days.

In central Alberta, Simmental mixed steer calves weighing 540 lbs. dropped the gavel at $230 while tan mixed heifers weighing 490 lbs. reached up to $205. In southern Alberta, black mixed larger-frame medium-flesh steers weighing 700 lbs. were quoted at $202. In south-central Saskatchewan, a small group of uniform black steers averaging 560 lbs. were valued at $229.

— 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.

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