Klassen: Feeder cattle market under pressure

Western Canadian feeder cattle prices were $1-$3 per hundredweight lower last week due to softer fed cattle prices and stronger barley values. Feedlot buying interest has eased, with higher break-even costs in the deferred months.

Lacklustre demand was noted for grass cattle despite an improvement in pasture conditions across most of the Prairies.

Feeder steers in the range of 650 to 700 pounds averaged $157/cwt in east-central Alberta. Angus-cross age-verified steers averaging 785 lbs. with no special features sold for $145/cwt landed in southern Alberta feedlot. Heavier shortkeep replacement cattle, weight-controlled backgrounded exotic steers with medium flesh averaging 870 lbs., sold for $130/cwt in the same region.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s stocks and acreage report on Friday was bearish for North American feeder cattle prices. Corn stocks were down eight per cent from last year and 2012 corn acres were projected at 95.9 million, up from 91.9 million last year.

Given the tighter stocks at the end of the 2011-12 crop year, favourable growing conditions are needed or the fundamentals will remain snug throughout 2012-13. World coarse grain stocks will remain under the five-year average next year, keeping prices well supported. Barley made fresh 52-week highs, reaching $235 per tonne delivered Alberta feedlot alley for April position.

Wholesale beef prices continue to grind lower as consumers back away at the higher price levels. Packing margins remain under pressure and the short week before Easter is usually a soft period in the cattle complex.

— Jerry Klassen is a commodity market analyst in Winnipeg and maintains an interest in the family feedlot in southern Alberta. He writes an in-depth biweekly commentary, Canadian Feedlot and Cattle Market Analysis, for feedlot operators in Canada. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or at 204-287-8268 for questions or comments.

About the author

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Jerry Klassen

Jerry Klassen is manager of the Canadian office for Swiss-based grain trader GAP SA Grains and Products Ltd. and also president and founder of Resilient Capital, a specialist in commodity futures trading and commodity market analysis. He can be reached at (204) 504-8339 or visit his website at www.resilcapital.com.

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