Compared to last week, feeder and stocker cattle trends across the nation were largely steady to 4.00 higher.  However distinct exceptions were on heavy yearling feeders weighing over 850 lbs which were steady to 3.00 lower and lightweight stocker calves near the major grazing regions of the Central US which sold from 4.00-8.00 higher and instances as much as 12.00 higher, especially on heifers.  Granted, much of this business was done early and before the three sharply lower CME cattle futures trading sessions ended the week and long before the USDA’s estimated lower-than-expected quarterly stocks rallied the grain market and the higher-than-expected prospective corn plantings was ignored by Chicago. 

Farmers are now expected to plant 95.9 million acres of corn which is 1.9 million more acres than the previous estimate, 1.2 million more than the average of analysts’ guesses, and the highest acreage level of corn planted since 1937.  Nevertheless, CBOT May corn contracts closed up the 40 cent limit on Friday at 6.44/bu as the report also included quarterly corn stockpiles of only 6.01 billion bushels, which was 8 percent less than the same time last year. 

The pressure from higher feed costs and losses on the Board will undoubtedly be felt on next week’s feeder cattle market.  But, this past week responded mostly higher following the widespread rains throughout the Plains and the Midwest and the continued unseasonably warm early spring that has pastures looking more like mid-May than late-March. 

Trading was active on Tuesday at the Ozarks Regional Stockyard in West Plains, Missouri which is only slightly more than a stone’s throw from Arkansas.  A 121 head string of 604 lb black-hided steers with an attractively empty or gaunt weighing condition received the premium price of 187.00.  Two loads of fancy Red Angus steers were also featured, averaging 806 lbs at 152.75 and at least 3.00-4.00 cwt freight from the nearest major feedyard.  Auction receipts were respectable this week but were still more than 10 percent lighter than a year ago and cash feeder cattle buyers know that offerings will soon dry-up.  Fat cattle sold mostly 1.00 lower on Wednesday and Thursday at mostly 125.00 in the Southern Plains and 202.00 dressed up North. 

Ground beef processors continue to struggle with eroded supplies of available slaughter cows following the massive selloff over the last several years.  Now, the media frenzy over the use of lean finely textured beef (LFTB) has thrown another hurdle in the packer’s path with the uninformed overuse of the derogatory moniker that will not be promoted in this market narrative.  The use of LFTB helps hamburger blenders ensure the safety of the product and raises the leanness that consumers think they want.  Now, that fear-mongered catchphrase is actually making beef’s most affordable product more expensive and harder to safely produce without any benefits to the consumer. 

This week’s reported auction volume included 50 percent over 600 lbs and 44 percent heifers.