The inventory data on the number of cattle in Canada at the start of 2015 were released this week. Although the U.S. cattle herd is larger than a year ago, the Canadian herd is smaller. Canada started the year with 11.915 million cattle and calves. That is down 2.5% from a year ago. Their inventory of beef cows was down 2.0% and their milk cow number was 0.3% smaller than a year earlier. The number of replacement beef heifers in Canada was down 1.5% at the start of 2015.

The U.S. cattle herd was 1.4% larger on January 1 and our beef cow herd was 2.1% larger than last year.

Because the U.S. herd is 7.5 times the size of the Canadian herd, the combined U.S./Canadian cattle herd, which is up 1.0% for all cattle and calves and up 1.6% on the number of beef cows, is close to the U.S. numbers.

The 2014 Canadian calf crop was 1.8% larger than the year before. The U.S. calf crop was only up 0.5% last year.

Boxed beef prices were mixed this week. This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $248.99/cwt, up $1.15 from the previous Friday and up $12.11 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $245.63/cwt this morning, down 30 cents from last week, but up $12.36 from a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were mixed this week on light sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $157.87/cwt, up $1.18 from last week’s average and up $8.74 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers was $250.00/cwt, down $1.37 for the week, but up $11.71 compared to a year ago.

Cattle slaughter this week totaled 537,000 head, up 2.7% from the week before, but down 1.8% from the comparable week last year. Cattle slaughter has been below year-ago for the last 53 weeks.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on February 21 was 880 pounds, down 1 pound from the week before, but up 14 pounds compared to the same week last year. Steer weights have been above year-ago each week since June 14, 2014.

Because of snow and ice, the number of feeder cattle on the Oklahoma City auction this week was too low for an adequate market test. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 500-550# $265.50-$270.50, 600-650# $236-$243, 700-750# $205-$210, 750-800# $189-$206.75, 800-900# $180.50-$204, 900-1000#, $173.50-$178.35/cwt.

The April live cattle futures contract settled at $154.65/cwt today, up $2.95 for the week. June fed cattle settled at $147.10/cwt, up $3.25 from the previous Friday. August fed cattle gained $2.87 this week to settle at $144.92/cwt.

The March feeder cattle contract ended the week at $209.72/cwt, up $7.82 for the week. April feeders settled at $208.57/cwt which is $8.25 higher than the Friday before.