Compared to last week, yearlings sold fully steady to 3.00 higher with instances 5.00 higher as advance continues to be on heavy yearlings over 800 lbs. Demand remains very good on yearlings as the draw of steady fed cattle prices on light trade Wednesday in Kansas at 161.00 continues to bring additional interest back to feeder cattle. Steer and heifer calves traded steady to instances 5.00 higher where tested (mostly throughout the Midwest) as a number of auctions simply do not have enough calves to test the market. Production areas farther north and west simply don’t do enough fall calving to test the market this time of the year, and the old crop calves are long gone.

In the Southeast steer and heifer calves traded uneven from steady to 5.00 lower to 5.00 higher. Demand for calves continues to improve with excellent grazing conditions around the country. With range and pasture conditions much improved over last year especially in the Southern Plains as conditions in west Texas and Oklahoma have improved dramatically where many spring rains and storms have fallen lately causing flooding conditions in many areas of the Southern Plains. One year ago at this time over 40 percent of range and pasture conditions in Texas and Oklahoma were rated poor to very poor that now stands at around 10 percent the first two weeks of condition ratings. Good to excellent rating conditions for range and pastures are at 57 percent across the country compared to 46 percent last year.

Feeder cattle prices have reacted accordingly with the much improved grazing conditions. Northern Plain’s buyers aided higher feeder prices as last Friday at the Herried, SD Livestock Market sold over 9000 head with over 400 head of steers weighing between 600-650 lbs averaging 627 lbs sold with a weighted average price of 270.16 and over 530 head of yearling steers averaging 881 lbs sold with an weighted average price of 217.13.

 In Valentine, NE on Thursday sold near 3000 head with a light test of 500-550 lb steers averaging 520 lbs sold with a weighted average price of 312.64, 131 head of fancy steers averaging 815 lbs sold with a weighted average price of 228.12 and near 200 head of their bigger brothers averaging 924 lbs sold with a weighted average price of 216.33. There is a huge price difference between where feeders and fat cattle are trading as cattle feeders are risking another dip in the red ink as they are in competition for yearling cattle.

Choice Boxed Beef prices again this week hit another all-time high on Tuesday topping at 266.77 as additional pre-holiday buying activity continued. The next six weeks will be a good test to see if beef demand will hold up as we start the beginning of the grilling season. The Memorial Weekend is the start of the summer grilling season and this is one of the times when consumers are willing to pay for high quality beef items. One of the key factors going forward is when retail promotions disappear how will the overall cutout values hold up. It will take strong buying clearance and the need to replenish and own inventory over the next six weeks to help hold values.

Friday’s Cattle on Feed Report had May 1 inventory at 101 percent; placements at 95 percent and marketings at 92 percent. Inventory was close to expectations, with placements significantly smaller than expected and marketings close to expectations.

Corn and soybean planting have had one of the nicest planting starts in several seasons, as corn planting is now 85 percent complete ahead of the 5-year average of 75 percent. Soybeans are 45 percent planted ahead of the 5-year average of 36 percent.

We here at the USDA Market News Service want to wish everyone a safe Memorial Day Weekend and want to say "Thank You" to our service men and women past and present for their service to our country and the price that has been paid for our freedom and the freedom of millions throughout the world.