Western Canadian feeder cattle markets were relatively unchanged from week-ago levels as most auction barns held featured or pre-sort calf sales. However, premiums of $3 to as much as $8 were noted on pre-conditioned, quality-weaned replacements. Time in the market is more important than timing the market; longer term risk adverse feeding reinforced the fact that calves are now at price levels were feedlots can pencil profitability. Major feedlot operators were more aggressive on heavier weaned locally grown cattle while lighter weight bawlers were left over for smaller backgrounding operations. In central Alberta, Angus-based weaned 775 pound larger frame calves were trading just under $170 while 650 pound Charolais cross steers were quoted as high as $180 in southern Alberta. In west central Saskatchewan, 650 pound larger frame heifers were trading in the range of $150 to $155.
Small groups of heavier yearlings were available in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Alberta operators had to look outside their local radius and were willing to pay up to secure supplies. Mixed Charolais cross steers weighing just under 850 pounds were quoted at $162 in southern Manitoba while similar weight larger frame heifers were trading in the range of $140 to $142 in the same region. In southeast Saskatchewan, larger frame, Simmental cross medium to lower flesh steers weighing around 900 pounds were quoted at $155. It was time to make virtue of necessity on shorter keep cattle with the fed market slowly percolating higher.
Feeder cattle prices are holding value on very large volumes. This usually signals the lows are in place. On the flip side, U.S. weekly red meat production reached a record high and retailers have larger stocks to work through in the short term. Longer term, U.S. producers are culling cows which is adding to the larger supply situation and shortening the expansionary phase of the cattle cycle. Cow calf producers are reacting fairly quickly to the lower prices.