Stocker calves and feeder cattle finally ran into some resistance last week, not a road block, but some slowing in what has recently seemed like an endless climb upward.

“…Auction sales are showing signs that grass orders are filling fast,” said the  Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) reporter at Ozarks Regional Stockyards in West Plains, MO, Tuesday, “A few buyers are indicating their grass deals for stockers or grass cattle are playing out. Several buyers were on hand, although some not doing much more that holding their seats down, but did indicate needing to buy them cheaper.”

There wasn’t any early-week spark from the prior week’s friendly Cattle on Feed report, either, as logic suggested. In fact, Feeder Cattle futures tumbled an average of 92¢ Monday; Live Cattle were down an average of 73¢ the same day.

By the end of the week, AMS analysts explained, “Feeder cattle sold very unevenly. Some of the larger auctions at the first of the week in Oklahoma City and Joplin, MO, were steady to $2 lower, with many auctions following the same market trend and pattern. In some cases, markets saw a wide spectrum of prices, ranging $5 higher to $5 lower on calves.” By the same token, AMS analysts point out cattle at several auctions throughout the Plain States traded steady to $2 higher.  

Keep in mind, this was without some of the typical volume in the Northern Plains. Winter weather curtailed receipts or cancelled a number of sales including Kist and Napoleon in North Dakota, as well as Hub City and Mobridge in South Dakota.

There was still room for some breath-takers, though. Consider the fly-weight Medium and Large #1-#2 steers at Okeechobee that brought as much as $305.

A week earlier at the Mid-South Stocker Conference in Tennessee, Dave Latta, assistant general manager for Pratt Feeders in Kansas, said, “Even at these prices, I’m looking for cattle that have added value… Ranchers ask someone to invest in their calves each year. What do you have that differentiates your product?”

Some calves at Clovis Livestock Auction in New Mexico Wednesday underscored that point. They were 73 head of Medium and Large #1 steers weighing 427 lbs. and of the added-value variety. They brought $208.73.

Fed cattle sales opened up in the Texas Panhandle Friday at $130, which was $1 higher than the previous week. Other regions traded steady with the previous day’s gains of $2-$3 live ($128.00-$130.50) and $5 higher dressed ($205).

“Fundamentals remain good as we are able to move beef overseas with U.S. beef exports 7% higher when compared to the same period a year ago,” AMS analysts say. “It seems that buyers were wanting and needing to buy cattle cheaper, but at week’s end demand still remains very good for all classes of feeder cattle. When one looks at weighted average prices it’s hard to see much decline.”