What would it take for grain prices to become unhinged? I asked that question of a market analyst yesterday. Since I didn’t ask if he was willing to be quoted, the market analyst will remain anonymous, but his answer was interesting. Back in 2008, grain prices increased dramatically. Spring wheat on the Minneapolis Exchange briefly hit an amazing $25 a bushel and canola hit $750 a tonne. We’ve seen another bull run in recent months fueled by the Russian export ban and corn supplies being much tighter than expected. So what would it take for grain prices to repeat the 2008 excitement? The analyst thought for a minute and said that in the current crop year, supply prospects seem largely assured. However, if China were to enter the market and buy a large amount of corn, the market could get pretty wild. China has become a huge importer of soybeans – about 55 million tonnes this year. However, China has managed to avoid big imports of corn. If that changed, there would be a major market reaction. Next growing season, production prospects will again be a pivotal force in grain markets. Until then, any big market jolt would have to come from the demand side of the equation. I’m Kevin Hursh.
Calf prices were significantly stronger last week. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture publishes a Cattle Market Update based on the Canfax Market Outlook and Summary. Prices last week were up in all the weight classes, with most ranges up $3 to $6 per hundredweight. It’s unusual to see such a significant increase from one week to the next. Steer calves in the 500 to 600 weight range averaged nearly $132 per hundredweight, while 500 to 600 pound heifers averaged close to $116. As compared to the same week last year, calf prices are up by $25 to $30 per hundredweight. One a 600 pound animal, that’s an extra $150 to $180, the best paycheques cattle producers have seen in a long time. The run of cattle through auction markets was heavy last week at over 39,000 head as compared to 23,000 the week before. In addition, the value of the Canadian dollar was up a bit on the week as was the Lethbridge price for feed barley. All those factors would be considered negative for calf prices, but there was still strong buying interest. I’m Kevin Hursh.