Cash fed cattle traded steady to $1 higher last week, with a few cattle in northern feedyards $1.50 higher. In the north, cash sold at $127 to $127.50 per hundredweight live, and $202 to $204 dressed. In the south, cattle traded at $126 to $126.50.

Boxed beef cutout values were lower for the week on soft demand. Choice boxed beef traded Friday at $187.41 per hundredweight, a decline of $2.50 from the previous Friday. The Select price on Friday was $186.57, a decline of $1.60 from last week. The Choice-Select spread was $0.84, compared to $1.74 last Friday.

Stocker and feeder markets showed weakness for the third consecutive week. Stocker and feeder cattle sold unevenly steady to $2 lower, with instances as much as $5 lower. The full decline was found on both calves and yearlings at major auctions across the country. Rain throughout the central states was a contributing factor to lower receipts and softer buyer demand for the week.

USDA Market News report Corbitt Wall noted the Southwest technically remains in a drought status, “but the eastern half of Texas has seen substantial moisture in recent months and now has the pond water and grass to support cattle once again. However, breeding stock and replacement quality heifers are in short supply and many of these timid producers are easing back into stockers, some of which are coming from Mexico with imports up over 20 percent from the same period a year ago.”

Wall says the mild winter and record calf prices have encouraged cattlemen to market feeder cattle earlier than normal, resulting in nationwide auction receipts that are 2.4 percent higher than last year, but 3.4 percent below the 5-year average.

“Most cattle marketers expect offerings to become extremely tight through the spring months with most light cattle turned-out and very few yearling feeder cattle left to sell,” Wall says. “One of these months, the cattle-on-feed report will reflect just how short supplies really are – and this could bring a newfound spark to the industry after most of the bulls have left the room. For now, carcass weights are heavier due to outstanding feedlot performance during the mild winter and consumers are balking at the new retail beef prices as they start to grill once again.”

Last week’s auction receipts totaled 208,200, compared to 236,000 the previous week and 235,500 last year. Direct sales of stocker and feeder cattle totaled 26,000, with video/Internet sales at 5,600. The weekly total was 239,800, compared to 334,200, a year ago.

Corn prices moved lower for the week, with Omaha cash corn bids closing at $6.50 per bushel, down 23 cents for the week.

USDA’s March 1 cattle on feed report found 11.7 million head on feed, 3 percent higher than last March. Placements were pegged at 1.7 million head, also 3 percent higher. Marketings were 1.75 million head, 2 percent below last year.

The weight break down of cattle placed during February show a significant trend of heavier cattle going on feed. Cattle weighing more than 800 pounds arriving at feedyards totaled 510,000 during February, up 24 percent compared to February 2011, and 14 percent higher than January of this year. Cattle weighing 700 to 800 pounds saw a 5 percent increase in numbers going on feed in February.