Alberta direct cattle sales saw scattered light trade, with dressed prices steady with the previous week at $390/cwt delivered. A few deals included a premium for 70% AAA grades that helped to firm the weighted average steer price to $233.70/cwt. Thin heifer trade was comparable with steers last week, but lacked repeatability and a weekly price trend was not established. U.S. buying interest was absent, despite the Alberta-to-Nebraska cash basis weakening to around -$19.00/cwt. YTD, Western fed slaughter was down 7% from the same week last year to 1,620,020 head. Fed cattle/cow exports to the U.S. for the week of September 30th were the third largest weekly export seen this year at 12,564 head.
The amount of yearlings coming off of grass and background yards have been surprisingly large for this time of the year and heifer calf volumes remain much larger than normal. The tough spot on the market continues to be heifer calves. Over the past month, 550 lb heifers have declined $27/cwt. The bright spot of the market has been lightweight steer calves, as prices continue to hover near annual price highs. Last week, Saskatchewan-Manitoba steer and heifer calves were trading at a slight premium over the Alberta market. Canadian feeder cattle exports from September 9th to 30th totaled 17,500 head, 155% higher than last year. For the month of September, this is the largest feeder export volume seen since 2014.
With larger than normal non-fed volumes in September, numbers over the next 30-45 days should be more manageable. Following seven consecutive weeks of lower prices, the cow market has found some stability, trading $2-3/cwt higher. Even though prices have seasonally trended lower, it cannot be ignored that for the first half of October, prices are still record high. Despite expecting more manageable numbers over the next few weeks, peak cow numbers are likely still in front us, suggesting fall price lows have not yet been established. Ontario cow prices were reported $6.25/cwt lower. Even though Canadian non-fed beef production remains historically larger, Canadian beef imports continue to run above last year.
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