Optimism Enters The Market

Call it grass fever or relief spurred by financial markets gaining through multiple sessions, but calves suitable for summer grass brought $2-$5 more last week.

According to analysts with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), feeders destined for the feedlot sold steady to $3 higher.

“A flurry of new stocker interests entered the market in search of dry-wintered, long-weaned calves, or lightweight yearlings in ideal condition for grass,” say the AMS folks. They note that bluestem pastures in the Kansas Flint Hills will soon be burned off and ready for turnout, along with other primary yearling grazing destinations like the Oklahoma Osage, as well as the Rocky Mountain foothills, from New Mexico up through Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.

“Feedlot replacement buyers shrugged off pressure from continued sharp losses on closeouts with competition from Midwestern farmer feeders, some of whom have damaged corn to feed up from last fall’s wet harvest,” AMS reporters say. “Most cattle feeders are betting on reduced supplies of available beef cattle at every level to turn months of losses into profits, despite August CME Live Cattle futures of only around $84, which would fall short of breakeven for most of this past week’s purchases.”

Fed-cattle prices did finally move last week, and in the right direction, picking up $2-$3 in most areas, both live and on the rail.

Friday’s Cattle-on-Feed report offers additional hope. It was the bullish February placements some analysts hadn’t expected – 1.68 million head, which is 3% less than a year earlier; 973,000 of those weighing 600 lbs. or heavier. Cattle on feed March 1 (11.2 million head) is 5% less than the same time in 2008; marketing for February (1.68 million head) is also 5% shy of last year’s numbers.

The summary below reflects the week ended March 20 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 44,200 $112.14 $104.69 $97.67 $97.32 $92.09 $86.84
Dakotas 40,300
SD
ND

$116.44
$112.52

$108.62
$107.87

$101.14
$97.61

$102.99
$97.14

$97.22
$95.53

$90.87
$88.74
OK 38,100 $111.63 $103.25 $95.16 $95.31 $91.27 $84.37
KY* 22,700 $103.02 $96.25 $85.78 $86.74 $81.31 $77.27
NE 19,000 $117.24 $107.18 $101.38 $103.02 $96.23 $91.33
TX 18,900 $105.64 $98.86 $93.57 $91.75 $88.24 $83.62
KS 15,000 $114.60 $104.73 $96.96 $100.80 $92.57 $87.01
IA 10,600 $112.65 $106.32 $98.20 $99.48 $94.55 $87.09
AL 7,700 $100-104 $86-954 $83-90 $83-90 $78-85 $82.80-(load)
AR 7,100 $100.85 $91.77 $86.764 $88.33 $84.32 $81.904
MT 6,400 $117.10 $108.05 $97.74 $106.08 $97.46 $89.90
TN* 5,100 $102.19 $93.05 $80.57 $85.03 $79.45 $82.15
FL* 4,800 $81-108 $81-97 $82.50-88 $75-85 $71-82 $68-74
GA*(***) 4,800 $85-106 $79-100 $75-97 $76-89 $70-83 $70-77
Carolinas 3,900 $85-105 $80-91 $71-82 $74-87 $70-81 $62-74
MS* 3,200 $80-951 $77-853 ** $78-851 $73-783 $70-755
VA 3,200 $107.74 $100.06 $86.72 $85.63 $81-44 $78.85
CO 3,000 $112.70 $103.79 $93.97 $97.52 $88.52 $85.83
NM 2,600 $103.33 $94.10 $90.42 $93.51 $86.94 $79.05
WA* 1,900 $107.762 $100.33 $92.60 $93.78 $91.18 $79.577
LA* 1,700 $84-105 $78-95 $78-934 $80-92 $80-87 $75-824
WY 1,200 ** ** ** ** $97.77 $93.414

* 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.