Feeder cattle review: USDA reports setup banner day for cattlemen

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Compared to last week, the bulk of the light offering of yearling feeder cattle sold steady to 5.00 higher with motivation from much lower than expected placements on last week’s cattle-on-feed report.  Calves failed to see much support from the yearling trade with early-week markets unevenly steady to 5.00 lower and many areas of the Southeast seeing even stiffer losses on lightweights. 

Receipts were curbed from an early-spring snowstorm that moved across much of cattle country over the weekend, keeping sizeable consignments from making their way to town while most sellers were less than excited about the market.  However, salvation arrived after most of the week’s feeder cattle marketing had taken place with Thursday’s banner day for cattlemen.  The festivities started out with the USDA grain stocks and prospective plantings report that stated corn farmers intend to plant 97.28 million acres, which would be the largest corn planting since 1936 when much of the work was done by mules. 

Corn stocks were also above expectations at 5.4 billion bushels which ensures that we won’t run out of yellow kernels before the new crop gets here.  The news forced CBOT corn futures down the 40 cent limit which sent the CME feeder cattle contracts up the 3.00 limit as far as the eye could see.  At the same time, packers were paying 2.00-4.00 more for finished cattle from 127.00-129.00 live and 204.00-205.00 dressed which was 6.00-7.00 higher.  Word spread instantly and trading became active in Thursday salebarns like Ogallala, NE and Dalhart, TX and Salina, KS and even in the still parched areas of southwest Kansas where Pratt had a short load of mixed colored and put together steers in a thin-fleshed and empty condition that weighed 606 lbs and brought 177.50. 

March 28th is when the feeder and stocker cattle market found a bottom with a springboard to bring demand and attitudes out from under the cloud that has plagued them since right after the first of the year.  Just a day earlier, it seemed there was no relief in sight from high feedcosts and the late spring might cause more farmers to plant soybeans.  Now, severely dwindling calf and yearling supplies are armed with the arrival of spring and its warmers days, greener pastures, and the annual lighting of the backyard grill.  The glimmer of hope for at least some relief in feedcosts is slim but nearby corn contracts fell below 7.00/bu for the first time in over a month and Good Friday’s closing prevented moods from changing until next week.  This week’s reported auction volume included 61 percent over 600 lbs and 43 percent heifers.



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