Beef Market Update: Steady cattle markets, big carcass weights, and beef import stats

There are reasons to feel some sustained optimism in cattle markets right now, as trade is holding steady while feed costs dip slightly, says Anne Wasko in this week’s Beef Market Update.

Cattle prices held strong to steady this week in the more northern regions, which is good news, even if trade was quite light in the southern areas.

Coming north into Western Canada, the fat cattle market also trended steady to about five bucks higher, she says. “Certainly averages are going to be up this week, kind of everywhere you look; that story would hold true as well, whether we’re talking about Alberta or in Ontario, so markets are just solid,” Wasko says.

Carcass weights are definitely still heavy, partially because of lower feeding costs. Lower cost of gain, means cattle stay on feed a little longer, and that adds up to average carcass weights 53 pounds above the 5-year average.

Moving to trade data, we have January data to comb through for the U.S. and here at home.

In Canada, beef exports were up 2 per cent and the value of those exports was up 11 per cent. On the import side of beef for January and February, beef imports into Canada are up 8 per cent. “That’s a trend that we expect both Canada and the U.S. to see as we go through ’24,” Wasko says, as record high prices and strong gains in the trim market will pull beef imports into North America.

The U.S. import picture mirrors that of Canada, though exports over the same timeframe were down 4 per cent. “That’s not a surprise to me. I think as we continue to move through the year and see smaller production levels, the U.S. production levels down between 4 and 5 per cent right now, and that trend will continue,” she says. Imports were up sharply, at 38 per cent, mainly coming from Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil.

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