Feeder cattle review: Feeder prices surpass year ago levels

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Compared to two weeks ago, yearling feeder cattle demand exploded during the July 4th holiday with cumulative gains of $6-$10 while light offerings of steer and heifer calves traded steady to $3 higher.  Ironically, the two week mid-summer marketing break turned out to be very active - especially in the direct and video markets with the bulk of the unsold grass yearlings and a good portion of the fall delivery calves now contracted. 

On-site auctions were also fairly busy with Independence Day falling on a Thursday.  Both the Oklahoma National and Joplin Regional Stockyards sold cattle right through the holiday and many specials were held, like the one in Green City, MO where nearly 4200 head were on offer and sold at inflated prices that no longer owned bragging rights by this past week. 

Feeder cattle prices finally caught and surpassed year ago levels with tight numbers driving this summer’s market and record drought dragging last year’s at this time.  Cattle feeders turned aggressive for immediate delivery yearlings coming off double-stocked Flint Hill and Osage pastures with dense traffic reported in those sparsely populated areas of the lower Midwest. 

The best demand was noted for heavier yearlings weighing 900 lbs, even though these cattle will be nearly finished by the time cheaper new crop corn makes it to their bunk.  Contracting was also brisk for yearlings coming off traditional summer grazing and for fall calves as prices flirted with all-time highs. 

This past week marked Superior Livestock Video Auction’s Week in the Rockies XXV with over 200,000 head on offer.  The Cedar Top Ranch near Chadron, NE sold 300 yearling steers for early October delivery to weigh 825 lbs at $157.50.  The TA Ranch from Saratoga, WY sold 1000 fancy weaned steer calves for early November with the 475 lb lot at $201, the 425 lb sort at $222, and 137 head of the light end weighing 350 lbs at $258.  Keep in mind, feedlots are still losing near $200 per head on most closeouts and the fed cattle market has steadily fallen since posting the all-time record high of 131.00 in early May. 

The smaller inventories of cattle (lowest in over 60 years) seem to finally be driving the feeder market with help from expected feedcost relief from an impressive hay and corn crop.  However, the summer yearling market did show signs that it may have climaxed and began its descent as sales quoted late this past week did not quite produce the “ooohs & ahhhs” herd immediately after the 4th of July fireworks. 

Extremely hot temperatures have made their way throughout the country and much of the western half of the Corn Belt could use a good rain as it tassels.  Some reports surfaced of heat related feedlot deathloss in the Northern feedlot areas.  Fed cattle sales continued mostly steady from $119-$121 and do not support any continued rise in the feeder cattle market.  The past two week’s combined reported auction volume included 59 percent over 600 lbs and 40 percent heifers.



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