Feeder cattle review: Stocker demand still not cooling off

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Compared to last week, feeder cattle sold 1.00-4.00 higher with stocker cattle and calves trading 3.00-10.00 higher on the heels of last week’s new record-high fed cattle trade that boasted a weekly 5 Area feedlot region weighted average steer price of 128.03. 

The sharpest gains were noted on pee-wee calves (under 450 lbs) in the Southeast as backgrounders near the major central US grazing regions are calling their favorite southern order buyer, after exhausting attempts to purchase lightweights closer to home.  Most calf orders are given out in ‘dollars per head’ which has turned up the heat on feather-weights (under 350 lbs) in an attempt to stay under the strike price. 

Order buyers at the salebarn in Okeechobee, Florida teased the alligator on 200-300 lb steers and bulls this past week with top prices on this class up to 285.00 and the entire weight range averaging over 250.00.  Few of us have gotten used to hearing calf prices in the 2.00 range, now do we need to prepare ourselves for...dare we say 3.00/lb? 

Stocker cattle demand does not appear to be cooling off and it looks like we’re headed for an early spring. Temperatures warmed-up into the 70’s across the southern half of the nation early in the week before a narrow strip of wintry weather invaded much of Nebraska, Iowa, and eastward.  Adequate moisture recently in the Hard Red Winter Wheat region coupled with warm sunshine has popped the bright green wheat pastures and invigorated graze-out opportunities, but many farmers will elect to make a crop this year or better yet harvest wheat hay. 

Tight inventories of cattle have hit home for boneless beef processors as culling season is now over and high dressing slaughter cows and bulls are bringing over 100.00 at auction, well before the peak of grilling season.  Friday’s cattle-on-feed report  sprinkled an additional dash of bullish news on the cattle market as the bears continue to hibernate.  February 1st on-feed totals came in very near projections at 102.1 percent of a year ago, January placements and marketings were 97.8 and 102.4 percent respectively which was friendlier to the cattle market than most analysts expected. 

Commodity speculators could cash-in on the day trade of shorting nearby Live Cattle contracts on Thursdays again this week, just like old faithful.  Fed cattle trading finally broke loose late Friday afternoon with early live sales steady in Kansas at 128.00 while eastern Nebraska sold 3.00 lower at 200.00 in the beef.  This week’s reported feeder cattle auction volume included 53 percent over 600 lbs and 43 percent heifers.



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