Canada Cattle On Feed Up, Following Seasonal Path

Before the USDA can release its Cattle on Feed data for Jan. 1, CanFax, a private market advisory group, released its data for Feb. 1 showing more cattle populating the feedlots of Alberta and Saskatchewan than last year or the 2013-2017 average.

The number of cattle on feed in Canada, however, declined seasonally and appear to be on track to mimic the monthly trend for the rest of the year – although at a higher rate.

CanFax reported that Alberta and Saskatchewan feedlots held a total of 979,669 head of cattle as of Feb. 1.  This was down 28,941, or 2.87%, from the Jan. 1 total of 1.009 million head.

However, the February on-feed total was up 99,968, or 11.4%, from 879,701 a year earlier and up 81,172, or 9.03%, from the previous five-year average of 898,497.

There is a strong seasonal tendency for Canada’s feedlot population to rise a bit into March and April before declining to the annual low as of Sep. 1.  As calves are weaned in the fall, feedlot populations rise into the Dec. 1 annual high.




It would be difficult to argue that there should be a change in that pattern this year, and it might be prudent to think this year’s Canadian cattle on feed will hover somewhere above last year and the average.  Feedlot populations began to grow above the five-year average in June last year and remained above average for the rest of the year.

The number of cattle munching grain in Canada’s feed yards began the year above the trend, even though the general direction of the trend is holding true to form.

What makes predicting that Canada’s cattle on feed will remain above trend for the rest of the year a prudent thought is data that show the number of head placed on feed in January were above the 2013-2017 average and last year.

CanFax data showed that 107,286 head of calves were placed on feed in January, up 22,382, or 26.4%, from 84,904 in December, and 31,233, or 41.1%, above the 76,053 head of January 2018 and 12,649, or 13.45, above the previous five-year average of 94,637.

There is a strong seasonal tendency for feedlot placements in Canada to rise to a minor peak in March only to fall away to an annual low in July.  From there, feedlot placements rise to the annual high in October, only to fall off again through December.

Last year’s trend was largely the same as the previous five-year average, diverging to a higher peak in March, a higher low in July and a higher annual high in October.

It will take some hefty fundamental changes to change the seasonals.




Cash cattle trading last week took place at mostly $125 up to $126 per cwt, up $1 from the previous week.  On a dressed basis, cattle traded from $198 to mostly $199 to $200, steady to up $2.

The USDA choice cutout Thursday was up $1.58 per cwt at $218.07, while select was down $0.09 at $211.41.  The choice/select spread widened to $6.66 from $4.99 with 81 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

There were no CME delivery notices, retenders or demands on Thursday.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Wednesday, was $141.11 per cwt, up $0.01.  This compares with Thursday’s Mar contract settlement of $143.22, down $0.65.