Feeder cattle review: Market lower as uncertainty returns

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Compared to last week, stocker cattle and calves sold 4.00-8.00 lower taking back most of last week’s rally with uncertainty returning to the market. 

Yearling feeder cattle traded weak to 5.00 lower on pressure from the slightly rebounding grain markets, sharply lower CME feeder contracts, and the fed cattle market’s inability (once again) to break through the 130.00 resistance level.

Sellers didn’t even have time to gather and haul their cattle before last week’s markets evaporated.  Feeder trends have been extremely volatile the last few weeks with sharp turns occurring during the middle of the weekly trading session.  This past week, trends were slightly lower on Monday with the bottom falling out in many Tuesday markets as yet another snowstorm moved across Colorado and western Kansas before tormenting much of Nebraska and the Dakotas.

Most midweek South Dakota auctions either operated on reduced numbers or postponed their sale until next week.  Still, nationwide auction receipts were fairly heavy for this time of year with Missouri boasting an unseasonably large 44,000 head of reported sales.  This was more than 20,000 head larger than the same week a year ago when prevailingly mild weather already had marketing winding down for the summer. 

In addition to market pressure from the storm, lightweight offerings are now overwhelmingly made up of new crop fall-born calves which are not highly demanded by stocker buyers.  Also, cool weather this spring has stunted grass growth in many major grazing areas.  There were several reported sales this week of previously purchased cattle that were expected to be turned out on pastures that did not develop or from western ranchers that normally graze their own yearlings but needed the grass to maintain their cow herds. 

Beneficial moisture has fallen recently across many areas that needed it, but the relentlessly cool and cloudy conditions have pastures behind schedule.  The Kansas Flinthills have now mostly received enough rain but very few pastures have been burned-off and turn out dates are upon us with many leasing arrangements still hanging in limbo.  Fed cattle sold mostly 1.00 lower from 127.00-128.00 as dressed beef demand still lags and the spring rally has yet to take ahold.  It’s unclear whether calf and yearling markets could have held steady if warm and sunny weather conditions had continued. 

Most of the industry is blaming the weather for the quick collapse, but others note the fact that there was little resistance to the lower prices with absolutely no support from the Feeder Board.  The next major market movement will probably be in response to the planting progress of this year’s corn crop which is off to a slow start.  This week’s reported auction volume included 55 percent over 600 lbs and 43 percent heifers.



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