Feeder cattle review: Feeders strong, fed market struggles

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Compared to last week, yearling feeder steers and heifers sold 2.00-4.00 higher.  Steer and heifer calves traded steady to 3.00 higher and were noticeably more active in areas outside the Southeast where they have only been lightly tested, and there was a definite higher undertone. 

Many stocker operations have put-up an ample first cutting of hay and uncovered short pastures of tender grazing.  Demand was good for all classes of feeder cattle, with the possible exception of fleshy/short-weaned calves weighing over 600 lbs but even the discounts on these were less than in recent weeks. 

Availability and auction receipts are rapidly declining in comparison to last year’s drought induced numbers.  However, the strength of this week’s feeder market was rather surprising with fed cattle markets continuing to struggle and giving-up ground every week.  Most feedlot closeouts are now reportedly losing 150.00-200.00 per head while packers are enjoying profits ranging from 50.00-100.00 per head, but captive supplies continue as such that cattle feeders cannot gain enough leverage to stop the bleeding.  Still, feeder cattle buyers continue to battle in the ultra-competitive yearling market, especially in the Southern Plains where heavy-weight feeder offerings have been liberal but are starting to tail-off. 

On Thursday, two loads of 1000-1025 lb steers brought 128.00-128.25 in Pratt, KS while down in Dalhart, TX at the Cattleman’s Livestock Auction a string of 191 head of 803 lb steers with an empty weighing condition sold for 140.75. These cattle should incur cheaper cost-of-gains late in their feeding period on new crop corn as adequate moisture continues to fall in the major crop production areas. 

Western regions remain in drought, but erratic thunderstorms are starting to pop-up in places like southeastern Colorado where Lamar was the site of flash flood warnings this week.  Friday’s cattle-on-feed report did not quite meet up to the bullish expectations of industry analysts, with June 1st inventories slightly higher than predicted at 96.9 percent of the same time last year.  Fed cattle marketings during May were just over 1 percent lighter than pre-report predictions at 96.6 percent and placements were missed by over 2 percent at 98.3 as yearling growers held on to cattle and hoped for better prices that finally arrived by early June. 

Cash fed cattle sellers refused sharply lower packer bids until late Friday when light trade broke out steady to 1.00 lower at 120.00 while there was minimal business in the North from 121.00-121.50 and 192.00-194.00 dressed.  This week’s reported auction volume included 59 percent over 600 lbs and 41 percent heifers.



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