Compared to last week, feeder cattle and calf markets were not fully tested due to the second severe winter storm to hit many areas of the Southern Plains and the Midwest in less than a week.
Direct trade and auction sales in the unaffected areas of the Northern Plains were steady to 3.00 lower, but some firmness was noted late in the week following the sharply higher fed cattle trade and the passing of the storm. Southeastern calf markets were weak to 8.00 lower with western interests unable to take delivery and many major arteries closed due to the weather.
The Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma were probably the hardest hit with high winds and up to 20 inches of snow building mountainous drifts and allowing cattle to simply walk over fences. The storm then pummeled Kansas and Missouri again with many auction markets forced to close or operate under extremely reduced receipts and sharply lower market undertones.
There were reports of significant deathloss on lightweight cattle that were not yet acclimated but most feedlots reportedly weathered the storms fairly well. Both storms covered some of the most drought ravaged areas in the United States and the moisture was welcomed despite the crippling conditions they caused. The lack of cattle movement over the past two weeks and the shear limited availability of feeders have put dwindling nationwide auction receipts 21 percent behind year ago levels.
Fed cattle trade was brisk late in the week with live sales 3.00-6.00 higher from 127.00-129.00 and dressed sales from 202.00-204.00. Slower harvest rates and the hint of an early spring rally boosted boxed beef cut-out values and returned optimism to the beef arena. The economy is still struggling and there is much uncertainty about the sequestration cuts, but the stock market has been soaring near all-time record highs.
Warmer weather should spur demand for both stockers and feeders with newfound interest in early grazing and the need for heavily populated areas to find their way back to restaurants and patio grills. This week’s limited reported auction volume included 59 percent over 600 lbs and 44 percent heifers.