The number of cattle in feedlots of 1,000 or more in the primary feeding provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan remain below last year and the previous five-year average.
According to the Livestock Marketing Information Center reporting CanFax data, which is delayed to the public on its official web site, the number of cattle populating the larger feedlots in those two provinces was 870,569 head, up 128,716, or 17.4%, from November’s 741,853.
However, the December total was 95,500 head, or 9.89%, below last year’s 966,069 and 119,373, or 12.1%, behind the 2010-2014 average of 989,942 head.
In other words, it is normal for Canadian feedlot populations to surge in the fall.
PLACEMENTS NEAR AVERAGE
However, feedlot placements remain very near last year and the five-year average, meaning Canadian feedlots are selling cattle as quickly as packers will consider them fat enough. The Alberta Beef Producers said on its web site Friday that higher prices for eight straight weeks has brought profitability back to many feedlots, and they are rewarding the higher prices with more cattle.
“From second half lows in early September, fed prices have rallied 16%,” the ABP said. “A light volume of fed cattle traded last week with prices steady to $1.50 (per cwt) higher than the previous week.
“Weighted average steer and heifer prices closed the week at $150.50 and $149.25 (per cwt) respectively,” the ABP said. “Following 16 consecutive months of losses, feedlots are now selling cattle at or above break-even levels.
“Auction volumes for a third consecutive week have trended substantially higher than year ago,” the ABP said. “Some auction markets last week saw their largest runs of the year.”
The ABP credited unseasonal fall weather along with the stronger prices for continuing to bring calves to market. The calf market continued mostly steady, although heavier weights were under a little more pressure.
Yet there continues to be a limited price slide between heavy feeders and calves, the EBP said. Eastern Canadian buyer interest was noted last week, but most cattle are staying local.
FEEDER EXPORTS SLOWER
Recent holiday week export data shows feeder export volumes to the US are at the lowest level since January. So, all things being equal, Canadian feedlot populations should be about equal with the average or last year, but it’s not.
Slaughter cattle exports to the US are up from last year and are on a more even trend than the 2010-2014 average, and the combination could be the answer. The difference is noted in this LMIC graph.
So, it seems there are more slaughter-ready cattle coming to the US for slaughter and processing than in previous years, resulting in the lower on-feed numbers.
CASH CATTLE TRADE QUIET
No cash cattle trades were reported this week. Superior auction prices Wednesday were steady to slightly stronger at an average of $110.47, versus $110.31 a week ago, in a range from $110 to $111.50 in the south to $109.50 to $111 in the north.
Cash cattle then traded at $110 to $111.50 per cwt on a live basis, steady to down $0.50. Dressed-basis trading was at $170 to $171.
The USDA’s choice cutout Monday was $0.76 per cwt higher at $195.39, while select was up $1.96 at $183.05. The choice/select spread narrowed to $12.34 from $14.54 with 80 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Friday was $131.68 per cwt, up $0.58. This compares with Monday’s Jan settlement at $130.87, up $0.97.