Compared to last week, a light test of yearling feeders sold steady to 3.00 higher while calf prices were very uneven with lighter weights ranging firm to 5.00 higher and heavier calves selling from weak to 3.00 lower than last week’s sharp advances. The weight in which the price trends went in separate ways varied as to region with Southcentral and Southeastern parts of the country seeing the split near 450 lbs, while Northcentral and Western states saw differences in demand near 550 lbs. The entire United States saw the market on similar weights and classes of 400-600 lb calves go in different directions with the level of preconditioning being the pivot point.
By now, most backgrounders have had their fill of health problems on new purchases from the unseasonably warm and dry autumn. However, most still desire additional calves with their availability expected to progressively tighten as the industry finally starts to realize the effects of the recent massive herd downsizing due to extreme drought in the Southern Plains and expansion of row crops in the Northern Plains. Buyers have become more selective and as the percentage of the offerings that are weaned and vaccinated grows, the discounts on those that are not become more severe.
Some of the driest cattle production areas in Texas and Oklahoma received precipitation through the week. The Texas Panhandle saw as much as 4 inches of snow, including Amarillo, TX which has still seen less than 5 inches of precipitation so far for the calendar year which is over 13 inches behind schedule. Many winter wheat grazers now have hope of at least some grazing prospects, but herds of drought-weary cows will likely outnumber stocker calves on this year’s wheat pasture. Feeder demand in the upper Midwest and Northern Plains continues to outpace other areas with feed more readily available, harvest starting to wind down, and temperatures more consistently cool. South Dakota calf buyers are more heavily armed than their recent influx of bird hunters with heavy receipts showing up at the state’s high volume auction markets. The Mobridge Livestock Exchange sold nearly 2400 head of top quality 5 weight steers with an average weight of 543 lbs and an average price of 164.85; the Philip Livestock Auction featured over 2800 head of Number 1 5 weight steers at 545 lbs and 164.83. Slightly south at Valentine, NE the push was on replacement quality heifer calves with a load of 530 lb heifers bringing a smooth 1000.00/head and another load weighing 595 lbs at 1100.00.