Beef Market Update: Setting spring highs, processor profits, and lofty calf prices

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If ever there was to be an all-good-news edition of the Beef Market Update, it may just be this week.

Anne Wasko of the Gateway Livestock Exchange runs through the numbers south of the border, in the finished and feeder markets, and all the way down to grass cattle and the news is good to great when it comes to pricing.

This month has featured explosive pricing on both sides of the border, but U.S. markets did take a slight breather, moving steady to slightly lower on the week. It could mean the spring high was set last week, Wasko says.

Cut-out hit $311, up four bucks from last week setting a new high and hitting those numbers seen in early 2020 when packer shutdowns drove prices sky-high.

“Just to put it in perspective versus the same week last year… we were $255; it just tells you just how explosive this wholesale market has been,” Wasko says, in the audio below.

The U.S. April 1 Cattle on Feed report didn’t offer any surprises coming in down four per cent. Placements were also down about one percent, which speaks to smaller supplies, and we’ll see the full impact of this in the coming months, she adds.

Here at home, fat cattle prices held steady, with the live average around $228. Cattle feeders have some bargaining power right now, and combined with strong demand for grilling products and packers making that tidy cut-out price, kill numbers are staying solid.

Basis has been a negative Nelly for the Canadian side, but we’re sitting about $10 to $12 under right now (an improvement from $20 to $25 under in the first quarter), with a seasonal improvement likely. It’s a strong argument that the local Alberta market may hold together better in the coming months, Wasko says.

And how about those grass cattle numbers? Wow! Right now, the price difference between last spring and this spring is about a dollar per pound higher, translating to close to $600 per head more on light grass cattle.

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Beef Market Update (view all)Season 15 (2023) Episode 18
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