Compared to last week, yearling feeder cattle sold 3.00-7.00 lower while calves traded fully 5.00-10.00 lower and as much as 20.00 lower on unweaned new crops.
Fall calving areas of Missouri and Arkansas suffered the brunt of the losses with severe discounts and light demand noted on fleshy bawlers. Sharply lower prices were a continuation of the previous week’s weather related sell-off and additional pressure from global economic and violence fears. Virtually every major publicly traded commodity market was sharply lower to start the week on Monday, followed by somber moods when news of the Boston Marathon bombing surfaced.
Wintry weather refused to relinquish its hold with yet another round of snowstorms moving through the Rocky Mountain States and on to the Northern Plains. Auctions were cancelled or postponed again this week in places like Torrington, WY where blowing snow halted any livestock movement, but much farther north in Billings, MT marketing was brisk and somewhat disconnected from lower markets in the Plains and the Midwest.
Trading was active on Thursday at the Billings Livestock Commission boasting a load of 572 lb steer calves at 175.50 and selling young cow/calf pairs up 1825.00. Granted, some support was seen in the feeder markets late in the week but before the grizzly bearish cattle-on-feed report that was released Friday afternoon. On-feed inventories as of April 1st came-in about one percentage point higher than the average guess at 95 percent of a year ago, while March fed marketings were about that much below expectations at only 92.3 percent.
Placements continue to baffle analysts who have been chasing the number lower for months only to see March headcounts moving into feedlots show up at 106 percent, compared to the average prediction near 99 percent. These data are nearly inexplicable following another year of deep culling of breeding stock, but forage availability of any kind has been very tight and the comparing placement value from a year ago was very low at 93.6 percent of 2011. However, feeder cattle indeed continue to come out of the woodwork with nationwide auction receipts surprisingly heavy so far this month which could bring another big placement number on next month’s COF report, but that might be too practical.
CME Feeder Futures and deferred Live contracts will likely feel the pinch of Friday’s report, while the April feeder board is already maturing at its lowest point and nearly 25.00 lower than when it was heavily traded early this year. What feeder markets need is sunshine and warmer temperatures to pop pastures and lure consumers to the backyard grill. Heavy rain and snow measurements have been mostly welcomed across the parched central portions of the United States. Farmers and agricultural analysts may be impatient to begin corn planting, but moisture is the key ingredient and modern equipment can easily knock out over 90 million acres in a couple of weeks. This week’s reported auction volume included 55 percent over 600 lbs and 44 percent heifers.