Compared to last week, steer and heifer calf prices were very uneven and posted huge trend swings just within the single week’s trading session. True yearling feeder cattle were not well tested across most of the country as supplies are nearly exhausted, but available trends were mostly steady to weak with the best test in the Northern Plains on heavier backgrounded loads.
Early-week calf trends were largely weak to as much as 10.00 lower especially on lightweights under 500 lbs, with the exception of the Oklahoma National Stockyards which quoted calves 2.00-4.00 higher. However, demand improved as the week progressed – perhaps as news surfaced that calves were selling at bargain prices earlier. Stocker and feeder calf buyers are a long way from filling their needs, but many just wanted to slow the procurement down for a while.
More consistently cool temperatures are desired to help alleviate health risks and undue stress on new purchases. Frost warnings have been put out for this weekend as far south as Interstate-40 and this will stunt any remaining grass pastures but help stop many airborne illnesses that calf pre-conditioners are fighting.
Calf buyers also need time to finish farming with wheat sowing in high-gear in the Southern Plains and corn/soybean harvest still underway up north. Wheat pasture prospects look very bright across much of the Hard Red Winter Wheat region and Corn Belt cattlemen have huge mounds of silage packed and fermented.
There is still much uncertainty about the size of this year’s calf run that has yet to be sold. Most agree that offerings will be smaller than usual, but argue as to what extent and whether the marketing will be more spread out. Answers will be found in the next few weeks and many of the delays that have been holding calf demand at bay will transpire.
Soon, salebarn receipts will be at their peak as buyers and sellers meet up amid the familiar sounds of smells of the fall run. Bawling calves being hollered into the ring as the auctioneer cries and bid spotters yip in a fog of dust, ammonia, and cigarette smoke. This was the scene at Philip, SD on Tuesday with a higher market as a 100 head string of fancy steers weighing 490 lbs brought 190.00 and a similar lot of 435 lb heifers sold for 181.00. Fed cattle gained 1.00 this week as short-bought packers became active on Thursday at mostly 124.00. Meanwhile, feed shortages have mainstream media outlets concerned that pork shortages may threaten the bacon cheeseburger - but so far no such fears about the burger itself. This week’s reported auction volume had 39 percent over 600 lbs and 39 percent heifers.