Feeder cattle review: Fed cattle steady, packers enjoy margins

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Compared to last week, light holiday sales of yearling feeder cattle were steady to firm with instances as much as 2.00-4.00 higher.  Calf markets continue to loiter around steady with just enough localized demand to offset limited supplies.  Most Monday auctions were closed in observance of Memorial Day, including the Oklahoma National and Joplin Regional Stockyards.  A few took the opportunity to hold special sales, including the one in Russell, IA which featured a fancy consignment of steer calves – half of which weighed 457 lbs at 190.50 and the other part load weighing 553 lbs at 176.00. 

The top quality 7 weight steers on hand averaged 141.80 with the 8 weights at 128.94.  Wet weather persisted across much of the Midwest and surrounding areas over the holiday-shortened week with drought no longer a concern east of Topeka, Kansas.  Dry conditions that ruined last year’s corn crop in Iowa have been replaced by record breaking rainfall across the state during March, April, and May.  Wet conditions halted soybean planting, but the overwhelming majority of the corn is sprouted and thriving.  Granted, a small percentage of corn did not get planted and some low-lying areas may have washed-out but moisture is the most important element of farming; remember 2012.  Western regions remain dry for the most part with a dry-line parked over the Texas Panhandle and western Kansas, but parts of the northern mountain states and the Northern Plains have received spotty rains. 

Valentine, in northwestern Nebraska, sold young to middle-aged 1400-1600 lb reputation cows with calves at their side from 2400.00-3500.00 coming off short-but-greening pastures on Thursday.  Profit hopes for calf and yearling producers lie in this year’s corn crop with at least a “normal” year badly needed to replenish depleted stockpiles.  Feedcosts have bullied cattle producers but tight supplies of summer yearlings and an impressive-looking stand of corn could send feeder cattle prices soaring once again. 

The first-cutting of hay is in the barn down in the Southeast and a fairly cool early-spring yielded fewer bales in some areas, but recent conditions have a good start on the second round.  Fed cattle sales were mostly steady in slow trading from 124.00-125.50 as brow-beaten cattle feeders grow increasingly more jealous of the positive margins that packers have enjoyed over the past several weeks.  This week’s reported auction volume included 57 percent over 600 lbs and 41 percent heifers. 

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