Feeder cattle review: Feeder market eases into warm weather lull

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Compared to last week’s sharply lower market; feeder cattle sold unevenly steady with varying trends depending on what part of the week the sales occurred, what part of the country they were sold, and the severity of last week’s losses in that particular area. 

Calves sold steady to 3.00 lower with new crops making up a larger percentage of offerings and waning demand from dwindling grass orders.  Early week auctions were very slow because of the last week’s lower market and Easter Sunday limiting shipments of cattle over the weekend.  Midweek sales saw a mixture of continued pressure and recovery as places like Colorado saw moderate market loss for the second straight week, while just across the line in Kansas the major yearling auction markets regained a large portion of last week’s sharply lower price levels with gains of as much as 6.00. 

Direct trade was extremely light due to early week losses on the Board, but limited late week salebarns experienced sound footing after CME feeder cattle contracts for fall closed up-the-limit on Thursday.  For the most part, this past week’s feeder cattle marketing mirrored the fed cattle trading session that saw early week pressure followed by a mild but measurable rally.  Five-Area direct slaughter cattle trading ended the week mostly steady with live sales largely unchanged from 122.00-123.00 in the Southern Plains, while Northern dressed business widely ranged from 192.00 on Tuesday to as much as 201.00 paid by regional packers on Thursday (but mostly 194.00-195.00 on Wednesday). 

Cattlemen are hoping that the market just needed a couple weeks of correction to catch its breath before continuing a bullish path with fundamental factors still fully supportive.  On the other hand, packers are struggling to keep dressed beef cut-out values within shouting distance of the whole dressed carcass (177.00 vs. 195.00) and at the same time keep from tipping their short-bought hand to feedlot managers yearning to return the fat market to 130.00. 

Beneficial rains fell across much of cattle country this week, including the Texas Panhandle which was forced to close Hwy 287 between Amarillo and Dumas for several hours because of isolated rainfall measurements of up to 5 inches. Kansas Flint Hill pastures have mostly been burned-off and new arrivals of stockers are unloaded daily to feast on fresh bluestem growth.  Soon grass pastures across the United States will be fully stocked and the grazing rush is mostly over for this year, with the exception of a few small-acreage weekend warriors.  Up north in the Dakotas, demand is still rampant for open replacement heifers with a large portion of the top quality girls still heading back to the country from area feeder auctions.  Feeder cattle marketing is easing into the warm weather lull that should last until the late summer yearlings hit the market.  This week’s auction volume included 50 percent over 600 lbs and 46 percent heifers.



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