Feeder cattle review: Auction receipts, cattle prices tumble

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Compared to last week, wintry weather and bitter cold temperatures across the nation slowed the movement of livestock and forced many cattle auctions to cancel this week’s sales. 

The best tested markets this week were in the Southeast, where marketing slowly resumed from last week’s ice storm, and in the extreme Northern Plains of the Dakotas where folks are simply tougher than the rest of us.  Lower undertones were prevalent on all classes of feeder cattle on reduced receipts with prices ranging steady to mostly $5 lower where trends were applicable. 

Nationwide reported auction receipts were down 39 percent from last week, Missouri cattle auction headcounts were down 80 percent with up to a foot of snow falling on Tuesday.  Direct sales were also much lighter (even for out-front delivery) as country trades look to the auctions for a market guide and have had a hard time trying to keep up this winter. 

CME cattle futures have also lagged behind cash trades during this most recent record-breaking rally on both Live and Feeder cattle.  This is part of the reason (along with struggling boxed beef cut-out values) for finished cattle prices falling by as much as $10 from the record high (near $150) established just two weeks ago.  The dressed beef supply and demand curve intersected at a much lower point this week as “sticker shock” has caused retailers to only purchase enough for immediate needs.  In fact, all levels of beef and beef cattle saw slow trading this past week.  Perhaps it was because so many of the players were attending the industry’s annual convention in Nashville, TN.  Meanwhile, grassroots producers were busy trying to get cattle fed and watered at the same time the season’s first babies were hitting the ground (ice/snow). 

Current market levels are putting extra incentive into saving this year’s offspring, on top of the already lofty responsibility of being a cow/calver.  Herd expansion is in full swing and many producers are in the market for fancy replacement quality heifers. 

Angus based bloodlines continue to grow in popularity, but individualistic preference is far from gone - which is what makes cattle production the greatest of all agriculture endeavors.  Last Friday, at the Burwell, NE Livestock Market a set of 667 lb Hereford heifers brought $224 with some true F-1 baldies weighing 686 lbs heading out to pasture at $235.  This week’s reported auction volume included 56 percent over 600 lbs and 40 percent heifers.



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