This week's fed cattle prices were the highest since early January. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $166.67/cwt, up $2.67 from last week's average and up $15.24 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price this week for steers was $264.72/cwt, up $4.72 for the week.

The March jobs report is not encouraging. The economy added only 126,000 non-farm jobs last month. That is the lowest monthly number since December 2013. Slow growth is not good for meat demand.

USDA's March Prospective Plantings report put 2015 corn acres at 89.199 million, down 1.5% from last year; soybean planting were predicted to be 84.635 million acres, up 1.1%; and wheat plantings at 55.367 million acres, down 2.6% compared to a year earlier. USDA's estimate of corn acres is higher than the average of pre-release trade forecasts while soybean and wheat acres are lower. The May corn futures lost 4 cents this week but May soybean futures gained 19 cents.

This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $255.97/cwt, up $5.54 from the previous Friday and up $26.80 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $249.47/cwt this morning, up $2.85 from last week and up $31.02 from a year ago.

Cattle slaughter this week totaled 525,000 head, down 1.7% from the week before and down 10.5% from the same week last year.

Year-to-date cattle slaughter is down 7.3% and year-to-date beef production is down 5.2% compared to the same period last year.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on March 21 was 871 pounds, unchanged from the week before and up 15 pounds compared to the same week last year. Steer weights have been above year-ago each week since June 14, 2014.

Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were mostly steady to $3 higher this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $312-$328, 450-500# $276-$316, 500-550# $289-$296, 550-600# $257-$284, 600-650# $230-$262.25, 650-700# $233-$252, 700-750# $217.50-$235, 750-800# $205-$220.50, 800-900# $192-$214, and 900-1000#, $184.50-$198/cwt.

There was no futures trading today due to the Good Friday holiday. On Thursday, the April live cattle futures contract settled at $163.02/cwt, up 40 cents for the week. June fed cattle settled at $153.37/cwt, also up 40 cents from the previous Friday. August fed cattle lost 13 cents this week to settle at $149.82/cwt. October live cattle ended the week at $151.40/cwt.

The April feeder cattle contract ended the week at $220.37/cwt, up $1.10 for the week. May feeders settled at $217.45/cwt which is 67 cents lower than the Friday before. The August contract ended the week at $218.55/cwt.