Alberta direct cattle sales saw limited buying interest last week, but average steer prices did firm modestly higher. The majority of trade was reported steady to $1/cwt higher than the previous week at $292-293/cwt delivered dressed. Heifer prices were generally comparable with steers, but weekly sale volumes were too slight to fully establish a repeatable market trend. Western Canadian fed slaughter for the week ending July 9th realigned 44% larger than the previous four-day week to 48,292 head. Canadian fed cattle/cow exports to the U.S. for the week ending July 2nd rebounded 6% larger than the previous week to 8,953 head and were 130% larger than the same week last year.
Alberta auction volumes have been light and the general price trend over the past couple of weeks has been steady to stronger. From a seasonal standpoint this should not come as a big surprise, as heavier weight feeder prices have strengthened at a much faster pace relative to the calf market. Over the past couple of weeks, 850 lb steers have been trading at the highest point since February 2016. Whereas the calf market (5-600 lb) has been mostly steady over the past sixty days, averaging in the mid $230’s/cwt. YTD Alberta calf prices have been trading at a $12/cwt discount to the U.S. market. For the first half of this year, Canadian feeder exports totaled 133,712 head, 41% larger than the five-year average and 1% larger than the ten-year average.
The non-fed market tone was mixed last week with dressed cow bids a couple dollars softer, while prices through the sale ring were over $1/cwt higher. Through the ring, new annual price highs were established. Over the past 25 years, July has the highest probability of seeing cows establish third quarter highs. YTD Canadian bull exports to the U.S. are 17% larger than last year, while Canadian bull slaughter is down 19%. With the Canadian dollar trading 4% below last year, bull exports are expected to remain strong through the summer. Peak bull export volumes traditionally occur in late August/early September.
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