Compared to last week, feeder cattle and calves sold firm to 3.00 higher on the heels of positive signals late last week on the fed cattle and futures market. Feeder buyers pushed price levels to fill a few more vacant pens before marketing slows to a crawl as producers turn their attention to corn and soybean planting in the Midwest, wheat harvest in the Southern Plains, and hay production across the southern tier of the United States.
Everything is running ahead of schedule so far this year, from cattle being turned-out to farm production, which should increase efficiency with perhaps an extra cutting of hay or double cropping early harvested wheat fields. Most of America’s Heartland is adequate on moisture but still slightly behind averages, while much of the Southwest remains very dry and rain is badly needed in the Mid-Atlantic states and extreme Southeast like Georgia and north Florida.
Calf offerings were spotty this past week and overwhelmingly dominated by new-crops which have mostly enjoyed a mild environment so far in life, leaving them rather soft and fleshy. The direct slaughter cattle market was all over the board again this week and mostly gave off a bearish tone, even though the 5 Area weighted average value was higher (much higher on a dressed basis). Northern feedlot areas sold cattle 5.00 higher in-the-beef from 198.00-200.00 and 123.00-124.00 live, while Kansas was fully steady at 122.00.
The problem was down in the Texas Panhandle where negotiating feedlots traded steady to 2.00 lower from 120.00-122.00 on barely enough volume to fully establish averages of which many more cattle will be priced. Friday’s cattle-on-feed report inched closer to revealing how tight cattle numbers really are, but still pegged April 1st on-feed inventories at 2 percent more than a year ago. March feeder cattle placements were only 93.6 percent of last year and fed marketings last month were 96.4 percent of 2012.
On feed totals were exactly what analysts predicted while placements and marketings came in slightly higher, basically offsetting each other. Boxed beef cut-out values gained over 10.00 this week as grilling season nears and packers slashed slaughter rates, with last week being the smallest non-holiday harvest since February 2005. Meanwhile, South Dakota cow/calf men remain bullish on the future of the cattle business in Aberdeen at the Hub City Livestock Auction where a short load (62 head) of 586 lb replacement quality heifers stirred cell phones by bringing 1190.00 per head. This week’s reported auction volume included 52 percent over 600 lbs and 46 percent heifers.