Compared to last week, yearling cattle and feeder calves weighing over 650 lbs sold firm to 3.00 higher while steer and heifer calves traded 3.00-6.00 higher to close out the year.  The full advance of the market was seen early in the week and there was some weakness noted later in the week when the season’s first winter storm hounded the major cattle feeding regions of the United States. 

Some Midwesterners thought their Christmas wishes were answered early with over a foot of snow recorded in some areas of Nebraska and Iowa, while travelers in the area believed that the world was indeed coming to an end with blizzard conditions.  The Southeast saw tornadoes spawned from the weather front while the Southern Plains had dust-storms severe enough to close Interstate 27 between Amarillo and Lubbock.  The moisture received from the storm was much too little to alleviate drought concerns, but enough to show folks that precipitation can be had. 

The year 2013 will be monumental for the commercial cattle industry with record-high prices for most (if not all) classes and the fruition of tight supplies due to compound years of drought and herd selloff.  Anticipation will be on high throughout the new year; first to see how quickly feeder offerings dwindle, later for hopes of spring grass, and finally for a bountiful corn crop to resolve feedcost issues.  At what level these key factors are realized will be historic in changing the dynamics of our cattle market. 

It’s still unclear if buyers will continue to drive the calf markets in early 2013 despite the lack of affordable feed, but the year-end run that calf prices made is a good indicator.  On Thursday at the Valentine, NE Livestock Auction 120 head of “drug free” 538 lb steers jingled bells at 195.50 while several consignments of 500-700 lb reputation quality heifers brought near 1000.00 per head.

Feeder and replacement values are expected to reach unprecedented levels the closer we get to spring, but the most impressive sale prices for cattle may first be seen in the slaughter cow arena.  Yet another year of deep culling has come to a close and most producers that intend to stay in business have nothing but young, fruitful, and tame mommas eating their hay.  A late-season wave of open cows kept salebarns selling decent numbers and kept the slaughter cow market in check, although still very respectable. 

Cow and bull offerings should dry-up soon after the sort-offs from these last few Bred Cow Specials are sold and things could get very interesting in the boneless beef business.  Fed cattle sold 1.50-3.00 higher from 126.00-127.00 with the Board actually pulling the market ahead late in the year. 

This week’s reported feeder cattle auction volume included 50 percent over 600 lbs and 39 percent heifers.  All of us at USDA Livestock and Grain Market News wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a profitable New Year.