Compared to last week, feeder steers and heifers sold firm to 3.00 higher well before the fed cattle market experienced sharp gains during a Friday afternoon trading session. Southeastern calf markets and old-crop stockers throughout the balance of the country traded 2.00-6.00 higher, but early arrivals of soft new-crop fall calves in the Plains and the Midwest were very uneven. Some areas of the central US are continuing to see further price advance on the young pee-wee calves while other marketing areas are reporting trends up to 8.00 lower, even on top quality steers.
No doubt, the best demand is presently for short-yearling 500-750 lb stockers possessing a relatively thin condition plus the stretch and frame that grazers know will yield efficient weight gains on early grass. This is very typical for March and early April, but supplies are so tight and the weather has been so mild that these types have been high priority all winter. Calls for stocker calves have been pouring into Southeastern order buyers with the cumulative weighted average price across Dixieland for 400-500 lb steers up to 184.87, 500-600 lb steers averaged 168.69 before freight, commission, and additions.
Last summer’s drought remains fresh on the minds of producers in the Southern Plains; but many locations across Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas have received bountiful moisture over the last few months and greener pastures may well be a reality as temperatures rise. Auction receipts early this past week near these areas were very light as snow, drizzle, and fog hampered livestock transportation. Packer bids in the 5 Area direct feedlot region sprung from 122.00 to 128.00 Friday morning as feedlots took advantage of the short-bought situation and reduced chain speeds that finally caught up with the US beef processing industry. This allowed the fed cattle market to once again set new record highs (most recently set in late November) with live sales from 128.00-129.50 and dressed sales from 202.00-203.00.
Packers have transferred their marketing resistance from the buying end to the sales department with Choice cut-out values ending the week on top of 190.00 once again. CME cattle futures had impressive gains through the week with most Live quotes now over 130.00 and feeder contracts mostly over 160.00. The most recent CME cash feeder cattle index is on the rise and nearing 156.00 even without the inclusion of a fancy consignment of 5 big pot-loads of 787 lb steers that brought 160.10 at the Hub City Livestock Auction in Aberdeen, SD. This week’s reported nationwide auction volume included 59 percent over 600 lbs and 43 percent heifers.