Feeder cattle review: Steer, heifer calves rocket higher

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Compared to last week, steer and heifer calves sold $1-$4 higher with many instances $8-$10 higher on steer calves under 500 lbs. 

A light test of true yearling feeder cattle continued fully steady.  A strong cold front moved down across most of the country this past week and most major cattle production areas have now experienced a hard frost.  This will stunt most annual forage growth until next year, but should help improve the health of calves by wiping out many airborne illnesses currently plaguing new purchases. 

Demand was equally good throughout the country for lightweight calves with most auctions starting the bidding process at $2/lb for steers under 500 lbs (even in the Southeast).  Buyers became noticeably price conscious at the $2 mark on calves over 500 lbs as perhaps the arithmetic of $1,000/per head was just too easy to figure.  Only in the Northern Plains on reputation ranch strings of steers did 5 weights surpass the $2 mark with any regularity, like the fancy load of 511 lb steers in Valentine, NE that brought 213.00. 

Harvest is winding down across the Corn Belt and the cheapest corn price in three years is causing many Midwestern farmers to consider walking a portion of their crop to town.  Commercial feedlots are reluctant to butt-heads with these seasonal buyers and usually find it easier to let them have their load or two and be on their way.  Plus, most big feedyards are currently bursting at the seams with previously contracted country or video purchased cattle. 

The calf market has come through the heavy offerings and deliveries of October and November relatively unscathed.  Now, country deliveries are mostly complete and as we approach lighter runs in the auctions and the onset of holiday schedules, there still seems to be plenty of demand to push feeder and stocker cattle prices even higher. 

An unprecedented percentage of available feeders have also been set aside for replacements which should also keep a fire under the market.  The Northwest Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association held their annual fall bred cow and pair sale in Woodward on Tuesday.  Replacements were in high demand with bred heifers selling from $1800-$2250 and young bred cows up to $2500 per head.  Young top quality pairs sold from $2700-$3000 and many believe prices like these could be only the tip of the iceberg by early next spring, depending on what kind of winter most areas experience. 

Southern Plains feedyards sold showlists mostly $1 higher at $132, while Northern feedlots were still passing bids late Friday.  This week’s reported auction volume included 38 percent over 600 lbs and 39 percent heifers.



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