Compared to last week, a light test of feeder and stocker cattle sold steady to $4 higher. Once again, weather curtailed receipts throughout much of the major trading areas. Snow/ice storms moved across the mid-sections of the country last weekend and early in the week, causing consignors to suspend selling their cattle until more suitable weather arrives.
As good as the market is, sellers don’t want to take the chance on letting something as simple as the weather steal their chance on setting personal bests. Many auction markets were forced to close down entirely this past week either due to dangerous road conditions or limited receipts. However, wintry forecasts did not fully come to fruit in many areas but fear of the worst had already affected early-week trading.
Significantly reduced sales were reported in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kentucky where many stocker buyers go to fill their springtime orders. But, unlike school districts across the Midwest, salebarns do not have a lot of sessions to make up since producers in these areas are well ahead of their normal marketing schedule. In fact, many auction markets were more than happy to save on labor expense this week and plan on having only normal headcounts next week.
By midweek weather patterns had turned spring-like across much of the United States and despite already record-high price levels, “grass fever” is bound to be an epidemic for the balance of the month. The best demand, where tested, was for heavier stocker cattle weighing 600-750 lbs which was just right for hard-wintered cattle coming off dry and short wheat pastures in the Southern Plains.
Heavily supplemented feeders coming out of grow yards farther north were not as widely accepted, although still sold handsomely.
Cow/calf producers in the milder climates are still pushing the envelope to secure replacement quality heifers. In Pratt, KS on Thursday, a short load of fancy Red Angus open heifers weighing 923 lbs brought a whopping $200 or $1846 per head. Fed cattle sold $2 lower on a live basis from $148-$150 and dressed sales were steady to $3 lower from $237-$240 in the meat.
CME cattle futures pressured feedlot sales this week now that the board has some April breathing room, after February contracts had to hurry last week to converge with the cash market. This week’s reported auction feeder volume included 60 percent over 600 lbs and 42 percent heifers.