Compared to last week, steer calves under 500 lbs sold $5-$10 higher with heifers under 500 lbs $2-$5 higher. Heavier calves weighing 500-700 lbs traded from steady to $5 higher, while a much lighter test of yearlings and big calves weighing over 700 lbs sold steady to weak.
Lightweight calf buyers were aggressive to fill orders before the holiday shutdown and most major production areas realized unseasonably mild weather before the next round of snow and ice storms arrive. Most 4 weight male calves are now selling well into the $2/lb range with winter just now getting here, but the frigid weather that calves have already endured makes them more valuable to buyers ready to take them through January and February.
With Christmas and New Year’s falling on a Wednesday this year, most auctions will take a full two week hiatus. Excellent calf demand caused trade activity to speed up and prices to rally, rather than slowing down and tapering off which is normally the case right ahead of a long marketing break. Farmer feeders and backgrounders were especially active in their last opportunities to invest money in cattle before the end of the year.
Corporate cattle feeders are no longer prepared to push feedlot replacement prices any higher at this time. Feed prices are now likely locked-in until spring and unless the industry has a reason to believe that the fed cattle market will change significantly, heavier feeders should remain fairly steady. However, lightweight calves hold many more options and promise to be profitable with a larger pool of prospective owners willing to take a chance and see if they can grow them more efficiently than the next guy. Friday’s cattle-on-feed report showed December 1st inventories at 95 percent of the same time a year ago, while November placements were 97 percent and finished marketing’s were 96 percent of last year.
The direct slaughter cattle market in the Southern Plains was $1 lower this week at $130, while Northern feedlots traded showlists steady to $1 higher from $130-$131 live and mostly $207 dressed. All of us here at the Federal-State Market News Service wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a profitable New Year. This week’s reported auction volume included 47 percent over 600 lbs and 41 percent heifers.