National cattle markets

There’s no doubt that feeder cattle prices are top heavy and vulnerable for a tumble if a strong enough push comes along. Of all the factors that could be responsible for such a blow, dry weather is the most likely culprit.

Cattle prices in dollars per hundredweight (cwt.) except some replacement animals per pair or head as indicated.

NATIONAL SLAUGHTER CATTLE

(Federal-State Market News)

Oklahoma City-Des Moines

March 21

Compared to March 14: Slaughter cattle $2-2.50 higher in Texas and Kansas this week. Nebraska feedlots steady live and no trade at time of report for cattle on a dressed basis.

Boxed beef prices Friday morning averaged $237.89 down $.79 from March 14. The Choice/Select spread is $5.88. Slaughter cattle on a national basis for negotiated cash trades through March 21 totaled about 32,000. The previous week’s total head count was 103,326 head. Midwest Direct Markets:

Live Basis: Steers and Heifers 35-80 Percent Choice, 1200-1400 lbs. $152.

South Plains Direct Markets: Live Basis: Steers and Heifers 35-65 percent Choice, 1100-1400 lbs. $150-150.50.

Slaughter Cows and Bulls (Average Yielding Prices): Slaughter cows steady to $2 higher. Slaughter bulls steady to $3 higher. Packer demand remains very good as cow and bull numbers are limited. USDA’s Cutter cow carcass cut-out value March 21 was $202.98 up $2.06 from March 14.

NATIONAL FEEDER AND STOCKER CATTLE

(Federal-State Market News)

St. Joseph, Mo.

March 21

This week Last week Last year

263,700 350,600 280,900

Compared to March 15: Feeder cattle under 800 lbs. sold steady to $3 higher while those weighing over 800 lbs. traded weak to $2 lower with most declines continuing in the Southern Plains. Stocker cattle and calves (where tested) were steady to $5 higher with 6 weight stockers near the major grazing regions selling fully $6-8 higher. In the South Central Region, all reported sales of 600-700 lb. steers averaged $195.74, which was $7.17 higher than the previous week and more than $50 higher than a year ago.

Purchasing of grazing cattle is at its peak and most cattle growers want to turn out a stocker big enough to be an 800 lb. yearling feeder by late summer or early fall. Forward contracting of fall yearlings is already at a sizable premium to current delivery sales and starting to hint that price levels could go much further.

However, the cattle-on-feed report brought the first bearish signal to the feeder cattle market seen since the last report was released a month ago. On-feed inventories as of March 1 came in slightly higher than estimated, but were still lighter than the previous year (99.5 percent) for the 19th straight report. Marketings of finished cattle during February were less than forecasted at 96.6 percent.

Placements were once again the biggest surprise, quoted at 114.7 percent of a year ago, which was well above pre-report guesses. But, we must remember the February snowstorm that hit the Southern Plains last year and crippled the movement of cattle going into feedyards. The bearish report will likely be felt next week on the CME feeder cattle futures and perhaps in the cash market, but will most likely not be enough to extinguish the red-hot demand.

There’s no doubt that feeder cattle prices are top heavy and vulnerable for a tumble if a strong enough push comes along. Of all the factors that could be responsible for such a blow, dry weather is the most likely culprit. Early spring is always dry and windy in the Southern Plains, but the Texas Panhandle and surrounding areas are dust storms.

Farther north, the Midwest is still reeling from the brutally cold winter but many areas (like Kansas and Nebraska) did not receive all that much measurable snow along with the subzero temperatures and blowing flurries. Spring rains cannot come fast enough, because April showers not only bring May flowers but also the grass and subsoil moisture that farmers and ranchers need to make it through the rest of the year. Fed cattle sold steady to $2 higher than last week from $150-152 with gains posted in the Southern feedlots. The week’s reported auction volume had 59 percent over 600 lbs. and 42 percent heifers.

AUCTIONS

This week Last week Last year

202,400 254,000 224,100

WASHINGTON 1,900. 66 pct over 600 lbs. 49 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1-2 half load 622 lbs. $195; 750-800 lbs. $160.55. Heifers: Medium and Large 1-2 550-600 lbs. $190.25; 600-650 lbs. $167.85; 650-700 lbs. $164.94.

DIRECT

This week Last week Last year

52,100 46,600 51,400

SOUTHWEST (Arizona-California-Nevada) There were no direct sales reported.

NORTHWEST (Washington-Oregon-Idaho) 3,200. 100 pct over 600 lbs. No heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1-2 Current Delivery FOB Price 650 lbs. $185 Idaho; 650-700 lbs. $174 fleshy Washington; 750 lbs. $175 Idaho; Future Delivery Delivered Price 800-850 lbs. $174-175 for May-June Washington-Idaho-Oregon.

NORTHWEST DIRECT CATTLE

(USDA Market News)

Moses Lake, Wash.

March 21

This week Last week Last year

3,150 3,000 900

Compared to March 14: Stocker and feeder steers $1-2 higher. Heifers not tested this week. Trade slow to moderate with good demand. Some feedlots have started contracting California cattle for spring. The feeder supply included 100 percent steers and 0 percent heifers. Near 100 percent of the supply weighed over 600 lbs. Prices are FOB weighing point with a 1-4 percent shrink or equivalent and with a 5-10 cent slide on calves and a 3-6 cent slide on yearlings.

Steers: Medium and Large 1-2: Current Delivery FOB Price: 650 lbs. $185 Idaho; 650-700 lbs. $174 fleshy Washington; 750 lbs. $175 Idaho. Future Delivery Delivered Price: 800-850 lbs. $174-175 for May-June Washington-Idaho-Oregon.



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