Steers and heifers sold $1-$5/cwt. lower in the North and South Central regions, while the Southeast was quoted mostly steady, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
“Grazing cattle out of the Southeast were in the greatest demand,” say AMS analysts. “Feedyards were tepid in taking on more cattle this week. More precipitation and/or blizzard-like conditions bombarded a widespread area of the Plains late in the week. High winds, from the Texas Panhandle to western Nebraska, brought treacherous conditions…Receipts were curtailed again due to either reduced or cancelled sales in Nebraska and the Dakotas.”
Feeder Cattle futures closed mixed week to week on Friday with the most pressure in the front three contracts (7¢to $2.60 lower in spot Mar). Late-week support came from Live Cattle, which were boosted in part by the rally in Lean Hog futures (see below).
“For those cow-calf producers that starting calving four to six weeks ago, this
winter has been extremely taxing emotionally and physically,” say AMS analysts. “Cow-calf producers in Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota and Missouri are poised to wean a calf crop that will fall way short of perfect this fall. Anecdotes of cattleman losing 10-25% of their calf crop is commonplace this year.”
Although the extraordinarily tough winter continues to hamper feeder cattle demand and hold calf prices in check, Andrew P. Griffith, agricultural economist at the University of Tennessee notes in his weekly market comments, “When feeding pens dry and the weather moderates, feedlots will become hungry for feeder cattle and the calf and feeder cattle markets will likely change without the fed cattle market ever having to move.”
Likewise, analysts with USDA’s Economic Research Service—in the most recent Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook—expect tighter feeder supplies in the second half of this year to support higher calf and feeder cattle prices.
Fed Cattle Trade Lower
Despite lighter carcass weights and less beef production, relative to harvest numbers, packers bought fat cattle for mostly $1 less at $127/cwt. in the Southern Plains and Northern Plains. Through Friday afternoon, the week’s dressed trade was steady at $204-$205 in the western Corn Belt.
Spillover support from the aforementioned rally in Lean Hog futures helped boost Live Cattle futures. Except for 57¢ lower in spot Apr, Live Cattle futures closed an average of 68¢ higher week to week on Friday.
Incidentally, many attribute the rally in Lean Hogs to growing expectations that China must import significantly more pork because of losses incurred by African Swine Fever. If so, the notion is that the global market place will need more pork from the U.S. Apparently, much of last week’s optimism was based on weekly USDA export data, which doesn’t seem like much to hang a bet on.
In the meantime, wholesale beef prices continue to underpin the fed cattle market.
Week to week, Choice wholesale beef value was 86¢ higher on Friday at $226.99/cwt. Select was $1.44 lower at $217.34.
Griffith believes there’s room for wholesale beef values to climb, if winter weather the last several weeks delayed demand among consumers in the Northeast. Potentially, he says increased demand on that front could coincide with seasonally higher spring beef demand.
Friday to Friday Change*
Weekly Auction Receipts
CME Feeder Index
|CME Feeder Index*||Mar. 14||Change|
*Thursday-to Thursday for CME Feeder Index
Cash Stocker and Feeder
|600-700 lbs.||$158.64||– $2.15|
|700-800 lbs.||$145.68||– $0.94|
|800-900 lbs.||$135.68||– $0.01|
|500-600 lbs.||$165.90||– $3.55|
|600-700 lbs.||$150.71||– $2.97|
|700-800 lbs.||$141.20||– $1.26|
|400-500 lbs.||$166.43||– $3.43|
|500-600 lbs.||$155.97||+ $0.83|
|600-700 lbs.||$142.00||+ $0.02|
(AMS National Weekly Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary)
Wholesale Beef Value
|Boxed Beef (p.m.)||Mar. 15 ($/cwt)||Change|
|Ch-Se Spread||$9.65||+ $2.30|
|Feeder Cattle||Mar. 15||Change|
|Jan ’20||$149.625||– $0.075|
|Live Cattle||Mar. 15||Change|
|Feb ’20||$121.775||+ $0.525|
|Corn futures||Mar. 15||Change|
|Mar ’20||$4.070||+ $0.070|
|Oil CME-WTI||Mar. 15||Change|
|Equity Indexes||Mar. 15||Change|
|Dow Industrial Average||25848.87||+ 398.63|
|S&P 500||2822.48||+ 79.41|
|Dollar (DXY)||96.54||– 0.83|