Feeder cattle review: Yearling demand remains at its peak

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Compared to last week, yearling feeder cattle sold steady to 3.00 higher with the best demand still noted in the Northern Plains and upper Midwest. 

Steer and heifer calves traded mostly steady in the central and western portions of the United States, but Southeastern calf markets were fully 3.00-5.00 lower with many instances as much as 10.00 lower.  Discounts are quickly becoming more severe on unweaned types which complement the price trend as Southern auction calves are not presumed to be either weaned or worked. 

The calf market pressure is typical of autumn’s arrival with increased headcounts of new crop bawlers and the onset of the wide spread between daytime high temperatures and overnight lows.  Pre-condition yard sickpens are starting to fill as the combination of separation anxiety and shipping fever takes its toll on new purchases. 

There are many outstanding animal health products on the market to help stave-off sickness but they can be extremely expensive and limit any profit potential for which the afflicted calves were purchased.  If possible, backgrounders want to purchase locally to maintain consistency of kind and quality, plus help limit their vet bill and deathloss.  However, many times calf growers must seek the help of order buying firms that cover larger marketing areas to assemble larger numbers of cattle. 

Unfortunately, most shippers are forced to hold calf purchases in unfamiliar surroundings packed with droves of similar cattle that have been exposed to countless airborne illnesses until a suitable tonnage is achieved for efficient freight to their final destination.  Particularly this time of year, buyers use their most keen judgment in an effort to eliminate as many problem cattle as possible. 

On the other hand, yearling buyers can drop their guard and figure that aged feeders have been on their own for a long time and if they were going to unexpectedly perish it would have already happened. 

Yearling demand remains at its peak with an unusually large number of buyers participating in the open market.  The St. Joseph, MO Stockyards feeder cattle auction on Wednesday was arguably the best and most active market in the facility’s 130 year history.  Customer Appreciation Day resulted in a seasonally heavy offering with all-time record high prices posted for the area on yearlings over 700 lbs. 

Top sales included a load of 834 lb heifers at 146.85, a load of 843 lb steers at 163.10, and two part loads of 735 lb steers from 172.75-173.50.  This year’s increased addition of farmer feeders, independent feedlot buyers, and large feeding corporations spreading out to search for headcounts amid tight supplies has created fierce competition in the salebarn markets and increased participation in video sales. 

On Thursday, the USDA estimated this year’s corn crop to be an all-time record of 13.8 billion bushels, an increase of 80 million bushels over August’s estimate and 3 billion bushels larger than last year’s harvest.  Higher yields across the Central Plains and the South more than offset yield reductions for Iowa and South Dakota.  Meanwhile, the fed cattle market continued about steady at 123.00 live and 194.00 dressed.  This week’s reported auction volume,54 percent over 600 lbs and 41 percent heifers.



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