Yearling feeder cattle moved $5 per hundredweight higher last week, reversing a downward trend that had gripped the market the previous three weeks. Soft demand for lightweight calves continued, however, as prices were called unevenly steady to $5 lower.

An early-spring snowstorm and demoralized producers held auction receipts down, which may pay dividend for those inclined to sell cattle this week. Many analysts believe the market found a bottom last week and the trend is headed higher in the coming weeks.

The market’s about-face occurred on Thursday when USDA’s grain stocks and prospective plantings report pegged planting intentions at 97.28 million acres, which would be the largest since 1936. Corn stocks were also above expectations at 5.4 billion bushels. Corn futures dropped the 40-cent limit on the news, and feeder cattle futures jumped the $3 limit.

“Trading became active on Thursday in sale barns like Ogallala, Neb., Dalhart, Tex., and Salina, Kan.,” says USDA Market News reporter Corbitt Wall. The activity picked up “even in the still parched areas of southwest Kansas, where Pratt had a short load of mixed-colored and put-together steers in a thin-fleshed and empty condition that weighed 606 pounds and brought $177.50 per hundredweight. March 28th is when the feeder and stocker cattle market found a bottom with a springboard to bring demand and attitudes out from under the cloud that has plagued them since right after the first of the year. Just a day earlier, it seemed there was no relief in sight from high feed costs and the late spring might cause more farmers to plant soybeans.” 

Last week’s auction receipts totaled 162,000, compared to 224,100 the previous week and 196,400 last year. Direct sales of stocker and feeder cattle totaled 59,700 with video/Internet sales at 26,000. The weekly total was 247,700, compared to 279,500 last year.

Packers became more aggressive buyers and fed cattle traded $2 to $3 per hundredweight higher last week at $127 to $129. Dressed sales in Nebraska traded $6 to $7 per hundredweight higher at $204 to $205.

Boxed beef prices were lower. Choice boxed beef declined $2.36 on the week to close Friday at $189.07. Select boxed beef was down $3.44 for the week to close at $188.84. The Choice-Select was $0.23.

Slaughter cows and bulls sold steady to $1 lower on a live basis at auction. USDA’s Cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday morning was $170.94 per hundredweight, down $0.75 from the previous Friday.