Seasonal downturn to weigh on Alta. feed barley

The relatively stable feed barley market in southern Alberta is starting to show signs of softening, as seasonal market factors cause demand to back away.

The market is still working to ration the old crop until the new crop arrives, said Allen Pirness, a feed grains trader with Market Place Commodities in Lethbridge.

However, now that seeding is done for the most part, more barley is being offered for sale, he said.

On the other side, seasonal trends in the cattle sector mean that as fat cattle are disappearing to slaughter plants, they are not being replaced.

Pasture conditions were looking reasonably good as more animals go out to grass at this time of year, Pirness said.

The big question will be what happens with wheat, he said. Feed wheat is still readily available, but rising world wheat prices may steal some of those supplies away from the cattle rations.

U.S. corn and distillers grains are currently priced out of Alberta rations, as corn supplies are much tighter than barley or wheat. However, a drop in corn prices would also change the market outlook for barley, said Pirness.

So far, any time the corn futures have dropped, the basis has taken up the slack, keeping corn prices relatively steady and too expensive for Canadian buyers, he said.

Factoring in the recent weakness in the Canadian dollar, U.S. corn imports into the Lethbridge area are currently pushing $315 per tonne, which compares with domestic barley for about $254 per tonne, said Pirness.

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