Feeder cattle review: Recent rains bring out calf buyers

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Compared to last week, yearling feeder cattle sold steady to firm with the best demand fully shifting to the lighter true yearlings weighing from 700-800 lbs.  Calf markets were much more active this week as they made up a larger portion of receipts with prices ranging firm to $5 higher and spots as much as $10 higher on popular weights (400-550 lbs) of steer calves. 

Recent rains throughout the Southern Plains have brought calf buyers into the calf market for late-summer and fall grazers.  This demand was fully realized in the Southeastern salebarn circuit as order buyers were armed with much better orders than they’ve packed all summer. 

Hopes of feedcost relief are starting to come to fruition with CBOT September corn contracts losing 50 cents/bu just this week as impressive-looking crops in the Southern regions are already made and timely moisture across much of the Corn Belt promises a bountiful harvest.  The corn market appears to be lining-up for the largest one-year price drop in history with Omaha daily cash bids down nearly 1.00/bu on Thursday from 6.73 to 5.76, compared to a year ago this week when it posted the record high of 8.25/bu. 

One thing that recent droughts have taught cattle feeders is how to diversify rations to find less expensive feedstuffs and even a 2.00/bu drop in corn may not provoke nutritionists to reinstitute highly concentrated diets.  Cattle growers also learned to put more weight on cattle before they enter the feedlot with June’s placements weighing over 800 lbs, 27 percent more than a year ago, while cattle put on feed weighing less than 700 lbs was down 30 percent.  This means market-ready supplies should continue fairly burdensome to work through but a light at the end of the tunnel is waiting late this year and early next year on cattle that will have much cheaper cost-of-gains. 

Perhaps cattle feeders that have managed to stay upright across this long desert of profit drought can actually pull their head above water and rebuild some equity.  But, ultra-competitive feeder markets are making it hard for cattle feeders to seize the opportunity, especially when meddlesome farmer-feeders climb into the ring. 

This week’s Northern Livestock Video out of Billings, MT included 400 head of 940 lb non-hormone current delivery yearling steers from the Sunlight Ranches near Sheridan, WY that brought 150.00.  The Ericksen Sandhills Ranch near Seneca, NE sold two big loads of all-natural current delivery steers weighing 950 lbs at 151.50.  The OKC-West El Reno Livestock Market in Oklahoma, that was destroyed by the massive tornado in May, reopened this week with over 6100 head on Wednesday.  The sale went off without a hitch although permanent construction was still underway, including the addition of a community storm shelter. 

Texas and Kansas feedlots sold cattle steady again this week at 119.00, while Northern feedlots were 1.00-2.00 higher dressed from 194.00-195.00.  This week’s reported auction volume included 57 percent over 600 lbs and 39 percent heifers.



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