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Klassen: Feeder cattle market experiences diverse price behaviour

Compared to last week, western Canadian yearling markets traded steady to $2 higher while calf prices were unchanged to $4 lower. Yearling supplies are limited and there appeared to be a surge of buying interest for 850-lb. thin-fleshed replacements. Alberta fed cattle basis levels for the second quarter of 2023 have above average and the April live cattle futures are near contract highs. Barley prices have also come off the highs, contributing to the firmer tone.

The calf market was quite variable across the Prairies. Demand was stable for bawlers under 550 lbs.; however, buyers had lower interest for calves in the 550- to 750-lb. category. Manitoba calves held a premium over Saskatchewan and Alberta with Ontario orders setting the price structure. This reflects the feed grain advantage compared to Alberta.

A larger group of large, wide-frame black steers on forage diet weighing 925 lbs. reached up to $236 f.o.b. the ranch north of Saskatoon. In central Alberta, a small package of red Angus-based heifers weighing 945 lbs. on light grain ration with full health data dropped the gavel at $198. Northwest of Winnipeg, a smaller group of larger-frame thin-fleshed Charolais steers weighing 855 lbs. silenced the crowed at $240 and similar-quality heifers scaling at 820 lbs. notched the board at $215.

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