Feeder cattle buyers came to auctions last week ready to fill orders and many auctions presented a good run of heavy yearlings. The stronger test produced a $2 to $5 per hundredweight increase in prices for yearlings in active trading. A reported lighter offering of steer and heifer calves traded steady to $3 higher.

“Receipts continue to be dominated by heavy yearlings weighing over 800 lbs, which is fortunate since that is exactly where the best demand exists,” says USDA Market News reporter Corbitt Wall.

“Buyer interest is much lighter for calves weighing over 500 pounds, which are currently in tight availability, while localized demand is readily absorbing any lightweights under 450 pounds. It is unclear whether this past week’s higher feeder market is the start to a summer run-up or just the backfilling of orders from last week’s holiday shortened marketing. As reflected by the CME Feeder Cattle contracts, late summer and fall yearlings are trading at a premium to current sales with the hope of cheaper feed costs, but this gap is closing,” Wall says.

Market watchers note that feeder cattle supplies will be sharply lighter the next several week, and year-to-date nationwide auction receipts are already 8 percent below last year and 14 percent below the five-year average. Wall says herd rebuilding may be in its infant stages, noting that the “percentage of feeder heifers moving through reported auctions falling to its lowest point in recent memory this week at just 40 percent of sales.”

Last week’s auction receipts totaled 148,900 compared to 114,900 the previous week and 206,200 last year. Direct trade totaled 74,700 with video/Internet at 34,900, for a total of 258,500, compared to 304,700 last year.

Cattle feeders and beef packers were locked in a stand-off most of the week, with bids and asking prices several dollars apart. A few cattle traded late in the week at $122 per hundredweight. Supplies of market-ready cattle will increase from now through mid-summer.

Boxed beef prices traded lower on the week, with Choice boxed beef down $5.08 from last Friday at $201.57. Select boxed beef was down $3.83 for the week to close at $183.37. The Choice-Select spread was $18.20.

Slaughter cows sold $1 to $4 lower. Slaughter bulls sold $2 to $6 lower. USDA’s cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday was $157.79, up $0.18 from last Friday.