Feeder cattle review: Calves back on schedule after holiday

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Compared to the pre-holiday sales of three weeks ago, steer and heifer calves sold fully 5.00-10.00 higher with weights under 500 lbs routinely trending as much as 15.00 higher.  Heavier feeder calves and yearlings weighing over 700 lbs were firm to 5.00 higher with instances up to 7.00 higher especially on top quality heifers which received stiff competition from replacement heifer buyers. 

Even though several major auction markets were still closed on Monday of this past week (including the Oklahoma National Stockyards), by Tuesday the entire country was back to full scale livestock marketing and there are no superlatives left to describe the demand for calves.  Buyers entered the New Year full of orders and optimism as possession was nine-tenths of the job and crowds remained active right up to the end, as calves that were once considered un-merchantable were used to square-up loads.  Direct trade was very slow as country buyers cannot keep pace with auction bidding and asking prices may have justification to be raised several times before the cattle are showed. 

Next week’s salebarn receipts are expected to be very heavy with absolutely ideal weather, the holiday fully behind us, and the beginning of Stock Show Specials on the western Plains that annually coincide with the National Western Stock Show in Denver, CO.  Tales of high priced cattle are told only to be trumped by the guy at the next table but new all-time record highs were posted on most all classes of feeders at most all locales.  Lightweight steer calves are bumping the 2.00/lb level across the country and it is just a matter of time before a sizeable group of 5 weight steers actually breaks the resistance point which would officially make the sky the limit. 

Word is out that we need to start rebuilding our herds, especially in the drought stricken areas, and the interest in replacement quality heifers is spiking.  Near 200 head of future cows sold in Ogallala, NE on Thursday, averaging 618 lbs and 194.65.  These are not counting a 32 head group of 530 lb Red Angus heifers that were bid-up beyond the market, ending up at 1550.00 per head and reminding everyone of the old omen that “even gold is only worth so much”. The pure desire to own feeders continues to drive the market, just as domestic consumer and export demand lifted the fed market to record highs late last year.  Impressive fat cattle markets were not obtained by feedlot leverage or managers driving such a hard bargain, in fact negotiated cash sales of finished steers and heifers in the 5 Area feeding region made up only 36.8 percent of the total volume. 

The balance of the direct slaughter cattle sales were some type of formula arrangement, much of which is determined by an evaporating amount of cash business which accounted for well over half the trade just five years ago.  Reported auction volume had 52 percent over 600 lbs and 41 percent heifers. 



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