Compared to last week, available offerings of true yearling feeder cattle sold mostly steady to as much as 3.00 higher. Calf prices were uneven and extremely regionalized again this week with the best demand noted in the Oklahoma wheat pasture country and the Northwestern Plains. These areas sold calves from 3.00-8.00 higher with the full advance on steer calves weighing from 400-550 lbs down south and 300-450 lbs up north, where double-digit gains were noted in places like the Oklahoma National Stockyards and the Billings, Montana markets.
The farther calves were sold from these two hot spots, the progressively lower the trends became with Southeastern markets 1.00-3.00 lower (east of the Mississippi River) and as much as 8.00 lower in North Carolina. Calves were also hard to sell along the I-70 corridor from Colorado across to Missouri with trends unevenly steady to as much as 5.00 lower and stiff discounts for unweaned/fleshy types weighing over 550 lbs, especially heifers. The wheat pasture demand in and around Oklahoma is peaking with backgrounders having less than a month to straighten-out new purchases before turn-out dates in early November.
Local calf prices have surpassed levels farther to the north (which usually run several dollars ahead on similar kind and quality) and the popular light 5 weight steers (500-550 lbs) in Oklahoma now average closer to 170.00 than 150.00. The freight is a hurdle that keeps outlying areas from enjoying similar demand, both because of diesel jumping beyond 4.00/gal recently and because of the shipping fever that results from hours on a crowded truck in October weather. Northwestern Plain’s cattle growers are purchasing next summer’s turn-out yearlings right now as they will take feather-weights through the winter on rations that may be too hot for them, but will certainly keep them alive.
The Ogallala, NE Livestock Market featured over 500 head of top quality steers in the 350-400 lb category that averaged 216.57. Despite the drought ravaged growing season, the Corn Belt has ample silage and damaged grain to winter calves. However, many cattle operations in the Midwest rely on pond water (even in the growing lots) where nothing is currently rippling besides maybe the neighbor’s bulldozer in case it ever rains again.
Fed cattle sold 1.00-1.50 higher this week from 125.00-125.50 live but only 193.00 on a dressed basis in the Northern feedlot area, which was still 3.00 higher. The higher market was badly needed by cattle feeders with most pens still falling well shy of their breakevens, but rather impressive with carcass weights at an all-time high and fierce competition from cheaper proteins. Frost was detected on pumpkins all across the country this past week long before they were to be carved, which could be a cold omen. This week’s reported auction volume included 38 percent over 600 lbs and 40 percent heifers.