Feeder cattle review: Cool weather keeps calf buyers at bay

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Compared to last week, yearling feeder cattle opened the week steady to 3.00 lower but turned mostly 3.00-6.00 lower by week’s end.  Steer and heifer calves traded weak to 5.00 lower in markets where they were fully tested through the Plains and the Midwest, while Southeastern calf markets were unevenly steady to 3.00 higher. 

The sharpest losses on feeder cattle were seen in Oklahoma and Kansas mid-to-late week, following lower CME Feeder Cattle futures and a lower fed cattle trade in the Southern Plains on Wednesday.  These markets were also pressured by the continued heavier influx of big yearlings off graze-out wheat in the area.  Major auction markets from El Reno, OK up to Dodge City and Pratt, KS sold yearling steers from 3.00-9.00 lower with a high percentage weighing from 800-1000 lbs. 

In all the reported South-Central auction markets these type of steers averaged 124.13, compared to 127.51 the previous week with the average weight about 885 lbs and headcounts well over 10,000 head on both weeks.  Demand for these types would likely improve if weather conditions farther north in the Corn Belt would allow corn farmers to catch-up on their planting progress which is currently running three weeks behind.  Moisture has been ample but many fear that some growers will turn to soybeans, unless expensive fertilizers have already been applied in which case farmers will turn to 90 day corn seed and hope for the best. 

On the other hand, if rain clouds stay away for a few days these producers could wish Mother the best from the tractor seat while pulling a 36 row planter, or maybe a 48 with help from GPS.  The cool weather has also kept calf buyers at bay with pasture growth behind schedule and some grazing backgrounders less than aggressive. 

Last year was the first time a lot of these part-time cattlemen lost money and they didn’t like it, so letting the grass grow and putting-up extra hay looks attractive.  The lateness of the season and approaching warmer temperatures has also increased the discounts incurred on fleshy unweaned bawlers that tend to melt in the hot sun.  With the April CME Live Cattle contract out of the way, packers were able to buy showlists lower as hedged cattle feeders cashed-in a nearly 6.00 positive basis. 

Southern Plains feedyards sold cattle 2.00 lower at 126.00, while Northern feedlots were 4.00-5.00 lower on a dressed basis from mostly 202.00 up to 204.00 following last week’s record-high live trade that boasted sales up to 131.00.  This week’s reported auction volume included 57 percent over 600 lbs and 44 percent heifers.



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