Compared to last week’s sharply lower closing market, feeder cattle sold an additional 3.00-5.00 lower. Stocker cattle and calves traded unevenly steady with heavier calves (over 550 lbs) having instances as much as 5.00 lower while lightweight calves (under 450 lbs) experienced spots as much as 10.00 higher where available.
Most pressure was lent from last week’s lower CME futures market and fed cattle trade, as this week saw the Board closed on Monday and showing signs of support by midweek. Some late-week markets that suffered the full decline last week were mostly steady to slightly higher this week.
The bulk of the fed cattle trade occurred on Wednesday with live sales 1.00-3.00 lower at mostly 122.00, but Thursday there was minimal trade steady to 1.50 higher in the Northern feedlot areas from 122.00-124.00. Both feeder and finished cattle cash markets seemed to be finding fairly solid footing by week’s end after a whirlwind opening to 2013 with buyers frantic to fill needs the first full week of business and then pulling-in the reins. However, cattle feeders and backgrounders are keeping a close eye to the rapid drop in offerings with nationwide auction receipts 41 percent lighter than the opening week stampede just two weeks ago.
Due to feed and water shortages, producers have been selling cattle ahead of schedule for well over a year and many have now gotten down to those that are just about to be born. The loss of market position on the CME Live Cattle contracts and seemingly unreachable breakevens have taken many feeder cattle buyers out of the market but the expected destiny with unprecedentedly tight supplies has many doing what they do best; betting on the come. Backgrounders are not hiding their desire to own lightweight cattle as spring has found too many of them short-bought for the last few years.
At the St. Joseph, MO Stockyards on Wednesday the Bell family from Warrensburg made their way to town with nearly 600 head of top quality longtime weaned blacks with ideal condition. A short-load of the steers weighing 521 lbs topped the market at 195.10 with another 105 head of their big sisters tipping the scales at 682 lbs and bringing 149.10 (not for replacement).
Significant moisture is needed across most of the Plains and the Midwest if the rally on grazing cattle is to continue into spring. Many area producers are starting to give up hope, but rains and snows are starting to close-in from all sides and Mother Nature is bound to show some mercy sooner or later. Besides, the dead of winter is not such a bad time to endure extended drought. This week’s reported auction volume included 49 percent over 600 lbs and 41 percent heifers.