Compared to last week, feeder cattle and calves sold steady to mostly 5.00 lower to start the week, after cattle futures last Friday declined sharply with near limit losses on the feeder cattle contracts. Market watchers were also disappointed by limited cash trade and lower prices paid on fed cattle as weekly slaughter was very light at 502,000 head. Momentum redeveloped across the live and feeder cattle futures to start the week and gained ground until this Friday’s collapse.

From mid-week on feeder cattle and calves also strengthened with many auctions reporting steady to instances 3.00-5.00 higher. In the Southeastern regions feeder calves were mostly 2.00-6.00 lower. In addition to market pressure on feeder calves, lightweight offerings are now overwhelmingly made up of new crop fall born calves which are not always highly demanded by stocker buyers as many are unweaned and fleshy. With higher futures and strengthening boxed-beef prices the feedlot managers this week will have no reason to back down from higher asking prices.

Unpredictable attitudes are dictating market direction as of late, resembling a poker game where every player is either all-in or folded on every hand. Volatility is the only rule that cattle markets abide by lately with the debate of how high is high enough. These are the results of an industry yearning for profits as packers have been operating with negative margins for some time, but have been successful in moving boxed beef higher at light movement and can he keep enticing the retailer into the market at higher money. All participants in the cattle industry are leery but no one wants to be caught with empty pens or pastures when profit opportunities appear.

Auction receipts were again fairly heavy this week especially in the Northern Plains where in Ogallala, NE on Thursday sold 155 fancy steers weighing 615 lbs at 291.00, with 60 head of their smaller brothers weighing 528 lbs sold at 315.50. In Mitchell, S.D. on Thursday sold 224 head of value added NHTC steers averaging 815 lbs sold with a weighted average price of 243.98. Corn planting is getting well underway with USDA reporting 2 percent planted on Monday. A slower than expected pace but not a problem at this time especially with today’s planting capabilities to cover acres in a very short time. Auction volume included 55 percent over 600 lbs and 43 percent heifers.