Feeder cattle review: Dry weather yields outstanding gains

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Compared to last week, a light test of yearlings and a heavy test of longtime weaned calves weighing over 600 lbs (both bound for the feedlot) sold mostly steady.  Lighter-weight steer and heifer calves traded weak to 5.00 lower in the Southeast and Southern Plains, while Northern Plains markets were uneven from 5.00 lower to 5.00 higher depending on whether or not local farmer-feeders produced enough row-crop income to offset.

The market was probably stronger than the trends indicate as receipts were fairly heavy, with only one more full-week of marketing activity left before buyers and sellers start winding down for the holiday break.  Several major auction markets held special value-added sales this week in conjunction with their regular sale, like the OKC West-El Reno, OK Livestock Market which sold over 9600 head (many of which were put together early this fall to turn-out on wheat that never came up) and the Ozark’s Regional Stockyard in West Plains, MO which boasted nearly 8400 head on Tuesday. 

The southern Missouri market quoted most calves from 3.00-8.00 higher with new buyers on the seats and larger-more uniform bunches to choose from.  Yearlings were also active with a fancy load of 834 lb steers selling at 149.25 just a stone’s throw from the Arkansas border and at-least 3.00 freight from any major feedyard. 

The middle two-thirds of the United States is entrenched in severe drought while both coasts have received flooding rains.  Any significant form of moisture in the Plains and the Midwest would likely spark feeder markets, but for now the tight-supply driven rally is on hold.  However, the dry and open weather in the 5 area feeding region is producing outstanding gains with pens regularly gaining over 4 lbs/day and some with an empty and “green” starting point closing-out after gaining over 5 lbs/day.  This outstanding performance coupled with hog-like dressing percentages (up to 70 percent) from beta agonist feed additives are helping cattle feeders reach breakevens that were once thought impossible at current input costs and finished price. 

The unseasonably warm weather is pleasant to both man and beast as record drought doesn’t seem so bad in the wintertime.  After considerable carryover, the fed cattle market late Friday afternoon developed light trade in Kansas with live sales trading a 1.00 lower at 124.00.  This week’s reported auction volume included 44 percent over 600 lbs and 40 percent heifers.



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