“On Monday, live and feeder cattle futures closed lower on lean hogs’ tumble over swine flu fears as lean hogs continued their downward trend the rest of the week,” say Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) analysts. “Such negative reaction is typical with episodes that create market uncertainty, which leads to volatility. Initial knee jerk reaction it seems is to sell-off, hopefully followed by more thoughtful responses.”

There’s little doubt the influenza outbreak will have a negative impact on all meats and the economy overall (see “Wrongly Named ‘Swine Flu’ Casts a Pall on Trade”). AMS analysts point out initial short-term hopes that beef might capitalize on pork’s misfortune also vanished.

“Wednesday saw the live and feeder cattle futures make considerable gains, but then drifted lower the rest of the week with feeder cattle settling sharply lower on Friday,” say the AMS folks. “The swine flu caught the beef markets in an upturn after the last two weeks. This news only makes the markets softer as they will have a tendency to pull back because of the fear factor.”

Yearling feeder steers and heifers sold steady to $3 lower compared to the previous week. Early in the week, stocker cattle and calves traded steady to $2 lower; steady to firm at many auctions after mid-week. Southeastern markets sold feeder calves steady to $3 lower.

“Stocker cattle demand remains very good as order buyers, for the most part, bought grass cattle where they left off last week,” said AMS reporters Friday. “Feeders selling with any condition and weaned are readily absorbed by buyers. A number of auctions reported a lot of new crop un-weaned calves coming to the sales carrying plenty of flesh and selling with sharp discounts compared to the long-time weaned calves.”

Fundamentally, just before Influenza A broke out, price forecasts from the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) called for average fed cattle prices during the second quarter in the upper $80s; the lower to mid-$80s through the summer quarter.

“In the Southern Plains, yearling steer (700-800 lbs.) prices may gain seasonally into late July or early August before getting some pressure from increased numbers of long-yearlings coming to market (calves weaned in late 2008 and on summer grass this year),” say LMIC analysts. “If a normal U.S. corn crop develops in 2009, steer calf prices (500-600 lbs.) in the Southern Plains are forecast to average above a year ago this fall quarter by $8-$14/cwt… Of course, last fall is our most recent reminder of how outside shocks can impact cattle prices.”

The summary below reflects the week ended May 1 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.
MO 31,800 $115.00 $110.88 $101.05 $103.00 $97.98 $93.37
OK 28,900 $117.49 $109.55 $103.31 $103.35 $97.97 $92.92
Dakotas 28,800
SD
ND

$117.05
$116.92

$116.17
112.15

$110.75
$108.76

$109.49
$107.21

$105.62
$104.69

$97.18
$92.00
KY* 28,300 $107.84 $102.08 $93.17 $92.71 $87.66 $84.74
TX 18,500 $107.73 $105.67 $96.20 $104.42 $97.99 $88.78
WY 14,700 $121.53 $115.19 $100.17 $107.82 $103.76 $92.14
AL 12,400 $102-110 $94-103 $89-95 $87-96 $84-90 $78-85
KS 10,200 $117.81 $110.09 $104.01 $107.98 $98.42 $93.63
NE 9,600 $122.63 $114.43 $103.50 $105.34 $102.29 $92.88
Carolinas 8,900 $93-110.50 $90-104 $80-95 $79-97.50 $70-89 $70-84
IA 8,900 $120.27 $113.85 $105.59 $104.61 $101.52 $95.83
AR 8,200 $107.11 $102.35 $101.954 $94.08 $89.72 $89.464
TN* 8,100 $106.48 $102.08 $93.17 $92.71 $87.66 $84.74
MS* 7,500 $97-1071 $88-1033 $82-925 $85-941 $82-903 $74-825
GA*(***) 7,300 $93-110 $85-104 $81-100 $81-94 $78-90 $74-82
FL* 6,000 $91-110 $82-95 $85-864 $82-90 $80-84 $76-804
MT 4,400 $118.92 $113.26 $102.61 $106.83 $103.86 $93.736
LA* 3,800 $92-110 $90-103 $88-1014 $90-104 $78-95 $84-904
NM 3,800 $115.48 $101.46 $96.46 $98.48 $81.88 $84.33
CO 3,400 $120.07 $111.06 $100.00 $101.62 $96.21 $89.886
VA 2,800 $110.03 $103.81 $93.40 $90.66 $89.99 $84.73
WA* 2,300 $113.18 ** ** $97.26 $92.98 $88.25

* 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.