Feeder Cattle Review: Record prices level off

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Compared to last week, feeder cattle and calves throughout the majority of the country sold mostly steady to 2.00 lower while lightweight calves in the Southeastern markets traded mostly steady to 2.00 higher.  Record prices have leveled off the last couple weeks with the fed cattle market struggling to hold its ground and most of the more-aggressive stocker orders having been filled. 

In fact, several auction markets near the major grazing areas saw 6 weight stocker steers sell as much as 10.00 lower, after being the most highly sought-after class for several weeks.  However, many would argue that these kinds have been perhaps 30.00 too high in comparison to the market value of other classes and weight groups.  Receipts continue to run light and are becoming progressively lighter with each passing week, with many trade areas (like Colorado) moving to their summer auction schedule weeks ahead of normal.  The Pratt, KS Livestock Auction sold a 94 head string of thin-fleshed 831 lb yearlings steers for 180.85.  Nationwide auction receipts during March were about 4 percent lighter than the same time a year ago, but likely included a much larger percentage of available spring supplies.  Auction managers have exhausted their “little black books” and most don’t know where they’re going to find cattle to hold sales each week until mid-summer yearlings start to show up. 

Farmers have now fully moved into planting season mode and most will have little interest in the cattle market until they put their planters away.  Meanwhile, major cattle feeders have set their sights on acquiring the summer grass yearlings that are just now being turned out.  These cattle require very little care other than the occasional ride by or windshield glance while putting out salt/mineral.  If stocker operators can secure a profitable contract and moisture levels are adequate, that spells for a pretty care-free summer.  Plus, a private treaty is free and a less stressful hedging strategy than playing the CME Board.  But, contract sellers remember last year when the yearling market went straight-up through the late summer and fall shipping season and many of them left money on the table.  Fed cattle trade was light this week and 1.00-2.00 lower from 146.00-148.00 and 238.00-240.00 dressed.  This week’s reported auction volume included 46 percent over 600 lbs and 43 percent heifers.



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