Despite underperforming most of the spring, stocker and feeder cattle prices rallied hard last week. Feeder cattle posted gains of $2 to $6 per hundredweight, and calves increased fully $5 to $10 higher in the Plains and Midwest. Calves in the Southeast were called unevenly $3 lower to $3 higher.

Last week’s gains were nearly identical to the previous week’s losses, and cattlemen hope the trend continues with warmer temperatures and growing grass.

“Volatility is the only rule that feeder markets abide lately with demand rarely driven by sound fundamentals, just as this past week’s weekly session totally ignored last Friday’s bearish placement figures on the cattle-on-feed report,” says USDA Market News reporter Corbitt Wall. “Spring forecasts finally surfaced with sunshine and seasonal temperatures expected to soon spark pastures and allow for corn planting which fueled demand in both cash and futures feeder markets. Unpredictable attitudes are dictating market direction of late, resembling a poker game where every player is either all-in or folded on every hand. These are results of an industry yearning for profit as the last six months have not allowed anybody in the cattle business to make money.”

Not to be outdone, the fed cattle market staged a rally of its own, with prices $2 to $3 higher at $127.50 to $130 per hundredweight on a live basis, and $202 to $204 on a dressed basis.

Last week’s auction receipts totaled 195,200, compared to 195,200 the previous week and 161,800 last year. Direct sales of stocker and feeder cattle totaled 50,700 with video/Internet sales at 61,200. The weekly total was 308,000, compared to 241,500 last year.

Boxed beef prices traded higher last week, with Choice boxed beef up $3.37 for the week to close Friday at $192.89. Select boxed beef was up $0.29 for the week to close at $184.43. The Choice-Select spread was $8.46.

Slaughter cows sold $2 lower while slaughter bulls sold steady. USDA’s cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday was $160.80, down $2.37 from last Friday.