Cattle producers are enjoying the stoutest market rally in recent memory – wholesale beef prices higher, fed cattle prices higher, feeder and calf prices higher, futures higher.

Although there was a sharp correction in Live Cattle and Feeder cattle futures last week, and seasonal highs may have been scaled, boxed-beef values are achieving levels unseen in more than a year.

Though domestic demand remains flat, exports continue to outperform earlier-year estimates. And as has happened since the BSE crisis, through the commodity bubble and last year’s global financial meltdown, SUPPLY continues to save us and now fuels the current rally.

“Fundamentals remain strong, and perhaps the tight numbers of beef cattle at every level have finally hit home with boxed beef cut-out values gaining $6 this week, reaching levels not seen since the summer of 2008,” analysts with the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) said Friday.

Auction prices continued to increase for steers and heifers last week – $1-$3 higher – especially for calves weighing 550-700 lbs.

Cattle feeders remain in more positive economic shape, too. “Cattle feeding margins were positive for January and February of this year, and, if fed-cattle prices remain at current levels, margins could be positive for several months,” say USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) analysts in the most recent “Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook.”

According to ERS’ High Plains Cattle Feeding Simulator, breakeven prices will range from $87 to $89/cwt. through May 2010. “Any further declines in feed prices could also improve this outlook, although increasing feeder calf prices will reduce margins,” the report says.

According to Randy Blach, CattleFax CEO, speaking at the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association convention two weeks ago, the price run has everything to do with domestic demand stabilizing, supplies dwindling and exports picking up some steam. Blach is bullish about where the market is heading now and over the next few years. CattleFax looks for calves to be worth another $30-$40/cwt. when they hit a cyclical peak in 2013-14.

“If you’ve got the feed resources, I don’t know that I’ve seen a better time than where we’re at right now to grow numbers,” Blach says.

The summary below reflects the week ended March 26 for Medium and Large 1 – 500- to 550-lb., 600- to 650-lb. (calves), and 700- to 750-lb. feeder heifers and steers (unless otherwise noted). The list is arranged in descending order by auction volume and represents sales reported in the weekly USDA National Feeder and Stocker Cattle Summary:

Summary Table
State Volume Steers Heifers
Calf Weight 500-550 lbs. 600-650 lbs. 700-750 lbs. 500-550 lbs. 600-650 lbs. 700-750 lbs.
Dakotas 31,800
SD
ND

$127.62
$128.86

$119.94
$119.43

$110.35
$109.95

$114.87
$112.58

$109.01
$108.27

$100.90
$100.76
KY* 27,700 $117.15 $107.87 $101.72 $102.70 $97.12 $90.87
MO 22,300 $125.62 $116.49 $108.94 $109.76 $105.19 $97.29
OK 22,000 $126.74 $117.50 $109.69 $110.31 $105.54 $97.76
TX 19,200 $119.59 $112.60 $105.47 $107.53 $102.62 $95.89
NE 18,500 $133.62 $124.18 $110.39 $117.00 $110.31 $99.98
KS 12,600 $128.36 $117.15 $109.19 $114.23 $103.38 $97.57
AL 9,200 $119.05 $108.39 $95.976 $103.62 $96.00 $87.336
IA 9,000 $126.73 $114.46 $107.77 $113.39 $107.30 $94.45
Carolinas 8,500 $100-120 $97-111.50 $86-98.50 $84-106 $81-97 $78-88
AR 7,900 $121.80 $114.25 $107.524 $105.67 $99.34 $95.984
TN* 7,500 $116.30 $105.66 $98.07 $101.54 $91.03 $87.20
VA 5,900 $117.70 $110.24 $97.42 $96.29 $91.38 $87.67
GA*(***) 6,000 $103-121 $96-113.50 $85-101 $90-107 $84-97 $79-84
FL* 5,100 $106-128 $96-111 $90-1084 $91-104 $88-1022 $87-1054
NM 5,100 $122.19 $108.06 $106.32 $109.53 $103.04 $93.56
MS* 4,700 $110-120 $98-1103 $93-1025 $94-1061 $89-983 $85-915
LA* 3,800 $109-123 $100-118 $98-1134 $102-112 $98-1082 $90-1004
WA* 2,900 $125.84 $115.61 $101.02 $112.40 $100.154 $98.12
MT 2,500 $123.212 $115.99 $103.316 $116.00 $111.65 $95.96
CO 2,000 $127.94 $122.044 $108.02 $115.86 $101.794 $92.417

* Plus #2
** None reported of the same quality at this weight or near weight
(***) Steers and bulls
(?) As reported, but questionable
NDNo Description
1500-600 lbs.
2550-600 lbs.
3600-700 lbs.
4650-700 lbs.
5700-800 lbs.
6750-800 lbs.
7800-850 lbs.
8850-900 lbs.