Feeder cattle review: Improved weather prompts grass fever

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Compared to the last good test which was actually three weeks ago as two major snowstorms limited commerce throughout most major cattle production areas, feedlot replacements sold weak to 5.00 lower.  The feeder cattle market was very disappointing to producers who have struggled through wintry conditions while waiting for trade to resume. 

Stocker cattle and lightweight calves suitable for early grass sold fully steady to 5.00 higher with many thin-fleshed offerings up to 10.00 higher near major grazing areas.  At the Joplin Regional Stockyards on Monday, 6 weight stocker cattle were highly sought after with one package of thin long-weaned stretchy black steer calves weighing 619 lbs bringing 172.00.

After 1-2 feet of snow fell across the Flint Hills of Kansas, landlords and lessees are hoping for additional forecasted moisture to raise pond levels and allow for normal stocking rates this grazing season.  Improved weather in cattle country this week spawned “grass fever” in many backgrounders, especially across the Southeast where local cattle growers pushed western orders as Dixieland is no longer under the grips of drought.  However, winter weather pounded the heavily populated areas of the Northeast once again which continues to limit beef consumption in that area. 

The Plains and the Midwest are still facing drought, despite two weeks of snowy storms, although this fact is not fresh on area cattle people’s minds as muddy lots challenge the tops of their knee-high overboots. 

Calving season is in full swing with many new arrivals meeting the world on snow banks or in mud-holes.  Commercial feedlots are especially messy and most large volume cattle feeders showed restraint in this week’s procurement even though shipments of new cattle have been sparse for the last few weeks.

Apparently, feedlots are tired of losing money and have decided to strive for a breakeven breath before diving back down for golden hopes.  Fundamentals are lined up in a row for a feeder cattle market surge, including; improved weather, a spring rally in beef cut-out values, a rebounding economy along with an all-time record-high stock market, and last but clearly not least the well-advertised lack of supply.  But, with rising stacks of red-ink closeouts and no support from the CME cattle futures, cattle feeders can no longer justify recent feeder cattle price levels. 

Feedcosts are anchoring yearling prices that are running 15.00-20.00 behind year ago record levels, even though the fed cattle market is just a couple dollars off its all-time high.  This week’s reported auction volume included 65 percent over 600 lbs and 43 percent heifers.



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