Compared to last week, calves traded unevenly steady and mostly within a range of 5.00 lower to 5.00 higher. Yearlings sold mostly steady to 5.00 lower. Support was found in auction markets especially on 500-600 lb long time weaned calves and light yearlings with condition that will allow them to perform well in a feedlot, growing yard or on pasture. Many auctions throughout the trade area are seeing 5 weight calves trading near and well over the 2.00/lb mark; on Wednesday in Torrington, WY sold over 5200 head of feeder cattle with over 200 head of top quality 500-550 lb steers averaging 526 lbs selling with a weighted average price of 222.76 and over 280 head of their bigger brothers averaging 566 lbs trading with a weighted average price of 203.61.
Demand remains best on calves that will go to grass as orders remain aggressive as the calendar gets ready to turn to March and April. In parts of the Central Plains of Nebraska there is concerns of feedlot conditions deteriorating if temperatures reach into the low 50’s which will result in a rapid snow melt increasing muddy conditions. Pressure still looms over the market with neither buyers nor sellers fully content (especially in the feeder cattle market) as last Friday’s sell-off in the cattle futures had packers stepping away from the table. A very light fed cattle trade was followed by a surprisingly weak fed cattle trade of mostly 2.00 lower at 136.00 late last Friday. Monday’s limit losses seem hard to justify, but continued to put the skids on overall market momentum that was found from late last week in the feeder cattle complex.
The Stock Market had sharp losses on Monday and pretty much continued for the rest of the week. This keeps the cattle markets and futures very vulnerable and very fluid in moving fast in one direction or the other; caution certainly remains in the air. There are indications that packers want to own inventory after last week’s light trade. There is the thought that market ready fed cattle supplies will tighten. But, this market does not want to take anything for granted, especially after last week’s seemingly higher market ended in disappointment.
The cattle complex felt the sharp sell-off in the Stock Market on Thursday. This had cattle futures feeling the pressure with sharp losses that again dampened hopes as fed cattle prices traded mostly 3.00 lower on live sales in the Southern Plains at 133.00 and mostly 4.00 lower on dressed sales in Nebraska at 206.00. Boxed-beef prices have been trending lower this week looking at seasonal decline for February which is not always a good beef month. Choice boxed-beef prices closed .94 cents lower on Friday at 216.08 compared to last Friday’s close at 220.60.
On Tuesday USDA released its monthly Grain Stocks report; domestically increasing corn and soybean ending stocks. USDA put US ending corn stocks at 1,837 billion bushel, up 35 mb from last month. USDA increased corn imports by 10 mb and ethanol by 25 mb and trimmed exports by 50 mb. US soybean ending stocks were boosted by 10 mb to 450 mb as USDA lowered soybean crush forecast by 10 mb. US wheat ending stocks came in at 966 mb up 25 mb from last month, trimming exports by 25 mb. Auction volume included 60 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 40 percent heifers.