Feeder cattle review: Steer and heifer calves remain strong

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Compared to last week’s sharply higher market, feeder calves and short yearlings sold fully steady to firm with instances as much as $2 higher.

Steer and heifer calves weighing under 700 lbs traded firm to $5 higher with the exception of lightweight steers and bulls under 550 lbs which were $5-$15 higher especially throughout the Southeast and surrounding areas.  The feeder cattle market balloon continues to drift farther out of sight and there has yet to be any signs that it may pop or even start to lose altitude.  Many localized markets were quoted much higher than this week’s nationwide trend, but most of these locations were catching-up to last week’s gains after weather related delays. 

Receipts were very heavy with the handsome market and moderate weather allowing producers an opportunity to sell cattle.  Reported auction headcounts were about 100,000 head larger than last week and nearly 20 percent heavier than the same week a year ago. 

The best demand was shown for stocker cattle partly to turn-out on wheat or stockpiled winter grass pasture, but mostly early purchases by spring grazers looking to obtain possession and at least lock-in their starting price before things get any higher. 

The fed cattle market continues to drive feeder prices by gaining another $2-$3.50 with live sales padding record levels from $141-$144.  Dressed prices in the Northern Plains were $4-$6 higher from $226-$228 in the meat. 

For the first time in a long time, feedlot replacements actually pencil-out better than backgrounding lighter calves - especially if cattle feeders take their weights to 1500 lbs plus.  Across the Plains and Midwest, 4 weight steer calves averaged $220-$230 which is just over 1000.00 per head.  These cattle still have at least three months of wintry weather to withstand and likely supplemental feeding before spring pastures will sustain them.  Any percentage of death loss could eliminate these cattle’s chances to achieve a profit, but by now most calf offerings have seen enough weather to withstand the stress of relocation. 

Temperatures have been frigid near the Hub City Livestock Auction in Aberdeen, SD where a fancy load of 808 lb steers sold for $173.50.  However, heavier feeder cattle prices did show some signs of moderating this past week with a few locations quoting cattle over 700 lbs slightly lower.  This was the case in northern Colorado where National Western Stock Show Specials are starting to wind down after kicking off the year with reputation strings where buyers spent most of their bullets.  This week’s reported auction volume included 55 percent over 600 lbs and 39 percent heifers.



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