Stocker cattle and calves higher, feeder cattle disappoint

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The aftermath of two major late-winter snowstorms was anticipated to bring a rally to both the stocker and feeder cattle markets. Stocker and lightweight grazing cattle markets didn’t disappoint, but the heavier feeder cattle saw demand lacking.

Compared to the last full-market test, which was three weeks ago, feedlot-ready feeder cattle were called weak to $5 per hundredweight lower. Stocker cattle and lightweight grazing calves sold fully steady to $5 higher, with instances of thin-fleshed cattle up to $10 per hundredweight higher near major grazing areas.

“The feeder cattle market was very disappointing to producers who have struggled through wintry conditions while waiting for trade to resume,” according to USDA Market News reporter Corbitt Wall.

“After one to two 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,” Wall said. “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.”

Stocker and feeder market fundamentals remain in place for a strong spring rally. Analysts believe the rebounding national economy will drive wholesale beef prices higher and spur fed cattle returns. That will bring feedlot buyers back to the ring with their hands in the air.

Last week’s auction receipts totaled 221,900, compared to 132,700 the previous week and 264,800 last year. Direct sales of stocker and feeder cattle totaled 53,500 with video/Internet sales at 10,500. The weekly total was 285,900, compared to 319,800 last year.

Fed cattle traded at steady to $1 per hundredweight lower last week at $128. Dressed sales in Nebraska traded steady to firm at $203 to $204. The Texas Cattle Feeders Association reported the winter weather of the previous two weeks caused average weight loss of 18 pounds.

Boxed beef prices were significantly higher on the week on good demand. Choice boxed beef increased $9.18 on the week to close Friday at $197.28. Select boxed beef was up $9.12 for the week to close at $194.93. The Choice-Select spread was $2.35.

Slaughter cows and bulls sold steady to $3 per hundredweight higher. USDA’s Cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday morning was $169.00 per hundredweight, up $1.50 from the previous Friday.

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