Rain, however minimal, fell across much of the southern Plains and into the Midwest, renewing optimism for many cattlemen. The drought is far from over, but even a little moisture gives hope that 2013 may be a better year.

Feeder cattle traded firm to $5 higher for the week in what was described as a brisk trade. Steer and heifer calves sold $3 to $10 per hundredweight higher.

“Producers are already hoping for an early spring with hay piles quickly evaporating and winter pasture almost nonexistent,” USDA Market News reporter Corbitt Wall said. “Naturally, demand is expected to improve progressively for stocker calves as we move closer to spring, but feeder cattle prices are also expected to advance. Despite the shortage of feed, the CME Feeder Cattle futures are posting at least a 5.00 increase in the value of a 750 lb steer before the next corn crop comes in.”

Last week’s auction receipts totaled 345,100, compared to 54,500 the previous week and 371,400 last year. Direct sales of stocker and feeder cattle totaled 48,500 with video/Internet sales at 6,500. The weekly total was 400,100, compared to 495,700 last year.

Slaughter cattle traded lower most of the week, ending $2 lower at $126 to $128 per hundredweight. Dressed sales occurred at $203 to $205 per hundredweight.

Boxed beef prices were called softer on Choice and firmer on Select. Choice boxed beef cut-out values Friday were $194.24 per hundredweight, down $0.02 from last Friday. Select boxed beef traded at $183.49. The Choice/Select spread was $10.75 per hundredweight.

Slaughter cows and bulls sold steady to $3 higher compared to those sold before the holidays. USDA's Cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday morning was 164.58, up $1.48 from the previous Friday.

Omaha cash corn on Friday was quoted at $7.27, up 10 cents from the previous week.