Feeder cattle review: Active bids to fill pen space before 2013

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Compared to two weeks ago, feeder cattle and calves sold firm to 5.00 higher on weights over 500 lbs with lighter-weight calves very erratic and ranging as much as 10.00 in either direction. The best demand was shown for cattle suitable for the feedlot, following the holiday shortened week. 

Major commercial cattle feeders were active bidders as they look to fill available pen space before the end of the year.  At the Huss Platte Valley Auction in Kearney, Nebraska on Wednesday a fancy string of F-1 Hereford-Angus cross steers weighing 850 lbs brought 152.25.  Offerings are expected to tighten significantly in the near future as many of the producers who normally sell later in the season have already marketed their stock.  But, receipts were surprisingly heavy this past week as favorable weather and continued dry conditions pulled cattle to town. 

The Joplin Regional Stockyards moved over 13,700 head of cattle through their ring this week and sold another 5700 head through video marketing to help the state of Missouri post its heaviest week since the first full week of January, with over 50,000 head reported.  Still, nationwide auction receipts were more than 7 percent lighter than the same week a year ago – a gap that will more than likely progressively widen over the next several months. 

As stated, the market for pee-wee calves under 500 lbs was extremely volatile as areas (even within the Southeast) were split between backgrounders looking to keep their dollars-per-head down and those that fear they won’t have enough feed and/or water to hold them through the winter.  Lightweight calf buyers in the Southern Plains were definitely more aggressive than those in the Northern Plains and Midwest as both areas may be extremely dry, but the southern boys are more accustomed to it.  Farther north, cattlemen are certain that water is our most precious natural resource as dry stock ponds represent the only cattle drinking water for most pastures and many backgrounding lots. 

Birds have now set up shop at the all-you-can-eat fish buffet and finding this much easier than shooting them in a barrel.  The lack of moisture in the central portion of the United States is beyond serious, but west coast producers are receiving much needed rain and high elevation snow.  Current stocker and replacement cattle purchases at every level (from a 300 lb calf to an older bred cow) probably have the widest range of expected return than any time in history.  Even some moderate measurements of moisture should cause prices to soar past record levels, while continued dry conditions will limit spring grazing prospects and cause further sell-off of breeding stock. 

Cattle and beef prices are presently very near year ago levels, while cash corn is 1.75/bushel higher.  Despite light trading early in the week at firm prices, cattle feeders were looking to carryover much of their showlist by late Friday as they resisted lower bids, following a sharply lower session of the CME cattle board.  This week’s reported auction volume had 41 percent over 600 lbs and 40 percent heifers.    



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