Feeder cattle review: Calf sales recharge after winter storms

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Compared to last week’s weather impacted light test, steer calves under 800 lbs and heifer calves under 700 lbs sold firm $5 higher.  Heavier yearling feeder cattle fell under some pressure from the sharp losses the previous two weeks in the fed cattle market. 

A few finished cattle sold this week in Kansas at $142.  Yearling feeder steers over 800 lbs were steady to $2 lower with the losses primarily in the Southern Plains while farmer-feeders continue to prop the market in the Northern Plains.  Yearling heifers over 700 lbs were unevenly steady with feeder heifers wanting to be lower, but unprecedented demand for replacement quality heifers in the auction markets aided the feeder heifer market. 

Nebraska and other Northern states have mostly secured their replacement heifers (many reportedly for export) but Kansas, Missouri and southward, producers are looking for top quality females to grow through the spring and then turn in with the bulls. 

At the Green City, MO Livestock Market 47 head of fancy 714 lb open heifers brought $209 or $1492 per head.  The conception of these “mothers to be” is much easier than the parturition and the expectation of a flood of bred heifers hitting the market this fall is moderating the demand for the few younger bred cows available.  Older bred cows have been taken off the table by a spiking slaughter cow market that reached all-time record highs this week in certain regions of the nation. 

The 1500 lb cow that packers will pay near $1/lb for simply dollars up to more than most ranchers are willing to spend.  They would rather stockpile grass this summer and see what the bred heifer market will bear late in the year when droves of them will be waiting for able bodied cowboys with a set of pulling chains. 

Despite the frozen tundra that prevails throughout much of the major cattle production areas, stocker demand was very good this past week.  The Southeastern calf market realized that sharpest gains with the snow and ice storm not hitting until after most of the larger auctions held their sales.  Backgrounders are expecting grass cattle supplies to be especially tight over the next several weeks.  Record prices brought many calves to town early this year, plus fewer cattle growers dry wintered stockers due to the high prices and the bitterly cold temperatures. 

Fewer of the lightweight calves sold last fall will come back up for sale as they left local areas and were placed in growing lots to later be moved straight into the feedlot.  The weather is forecasted to start straightening out - and everybody knows a few guys that will by cattle for summer grass, no matter what they cost.  This week’s reported auction volume included 62 percent over 600 lbs and 41 percent heifers.



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