Demand for most classes of females softened during March. Seasonal price increases are expected in the cow markets from mid-to-late winter, and this year prices experienced a typical early-year rally. Prices increased about 20 percent from last fall’s lows.
But demand for replacement females softened in late March as producers seem cautious about the long-term trend for calf prices due to higher grain prices. Analysts project supplies of both feeder cat-tle and calves to be larger this fall, and calf prices are expected to be slightly lower — in large part due to grain prices.
Stocker and feeder cattle prices posted significant gains during March — a typical seasonal trend prior to spring grazing. Drovers’ 50-market auction summary revealed a 13 percent gain in prices for 400- to 500-pound steer calves from Feb. 1 through March 31. That rally left prices for steer calves at their highest level since September 2006.
But the demand for both stocker cattle and females will continue to be influenced by grain prices and feedyard profitability. Cattle feeders have suffered heavy losses this winter, and the profitability outlook for the coming months is only marginally better. In addition to high costs of gain, total meat supplies are record large and the domestic economy has softened, both of which are negative indica-tors for fed cattle prices. Analysts say with large cattle on feed totals, fed cattle supplies and beef production will remain above year-ago levels through the spring.
Drought conditions remain a concern to many producers, especially in the southeastern United States. Rain fell on the region during March but not enough to erase the severe drought conditions prevalent the past two years. Dry conditions also continue in parts of Texas and regions of the north-ern Plains states.
In Drovers’ auction market summary, young and middle-aged, bred-female prices declined $63 per head, ending March at $806 per head. Aged, bred-cow prices declined $25 per head to $623. Bred heifer prices declined $6 during March to $894 per head.
Young and middle-aged open females posted gains of 55 cents per hundredweight during March, ending at $62.05. Prices for aged cows declined $1.87 per hundredweight to $51.26. Heiferettes ended the month at $64.30, an increase of $1.95 per hundredweight.
Prices for cows with large calves saw a decline of $24 per pair to end March at $981.50. Prices for cows with small calves increased $45 per pair to average $896.67 per pair. Small or aged cows with calves increased $40 per pair to average $702.
Prices for canner and cutter cows declined 12 cents per hundredweight during March, ending at $43.63. Utility and commercial cow prices remained steady at $52.63 per hundredweight during March.