Feeder Cattle Review: Yearling feeders higher as supplies dwindle

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Compared to last week, dwindling supplies of yearling feeder cattle sold mostly steady to 2.00 higher with most gains seen in the Southern Plains and mostly on steers. 

Demand remains extremely good but availability of grass yearlings is running out and commercial feedlots pushed the market where they were available in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.  Recent competition from a large influx of farmer feeders to the north has left more empty pens than normal in the corporate feedyards.  New crop spring-born calves traded weak to 5.00 lower with the full decline once again noted in the Southeastern calf markets. 

The sudden onset of autumn and the accompanying fieldwork has taken many farmers out of the stocker calf and feeder yearling markets.  Southern Plains wheat growers are busy planting next year’s crop and don’t have the available time and man power it takes to care for newly purchased calf arrivals.  However, the wheat pasture outlook is spectacular and calf buyers are sure to be armed with “go get em” orders as soon as the tractors are parked and the horizon starts to turn green. 

Corn Belt farmers are readying themselves for harvest with many still just pumping their grease guns or maybe spot checking moisture levels.  Experienced cattle buyers know not to bother grain farmers when they’re busy farming, but the amount of corn that is left over after the contracts are filled will dictate heavy feeder demand for the rest of the year.  The widest price difference currently existing in the feeder market is the gap between a thin/green 650 lb old crop yearling and an unweaned/fleshy 650 lb bawling calf which can easily be 30.00 cwt or nearly 200.00/head.  From now until the first hard freeze sweeps the Plains (which may be sooner than we think) the question on every cattle buyer’s lips will be, “Are they weaned?”

Friday’s cattle-on-feed report was bullish once again with further hard-evidence that headcounts are just as tight as advertised.  On-feed inventories as of September 1st were 92.8 percent of a year ago, while August placements of new feeders were only 89.1 percent of 2012, and finished marketings were 96.3 percent of the same time a year ago.  All three of these categories were slightly missed by the average of analysts’ predictions to the friendly side of the cattle market. 

The predominant fed cattle price broke steady ranks for the first time in six weeks with live sales mostly 1.00 higher at 124.00 in Southern feedyards.  This week’s reported auction volume included only 48 percent over 600 lbs and 40 percent heifers.



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