Compared to last week, all weight classes of steers and heifers sold steady to 5.00 higher, with instances 6.00-7.00 higher on light calves in the north central.  Demand was good for feeder cattle and very good for grass cattle with the right condition.  The feeder cattle futures saw triple digit gains throughout the week, which provided support to feeder trade.  The feedlot trade continues to show resilience, adding optimism in the feeder arena.  However, buyers continue to be very cautious on current purchases, as slaughter cattle futures for the summer months are sharply lower than the cash market.  Order buyers have been spending more money for bigger yearlings, as they have a shorter length of time in the feedlot.  With the higher prices in current slaughter trade, feedlot operators are feeling confident about the market and think they can finish the yearlings before prices drop.  At Sheridan Livestock in Rushville, Neb. two loads of steers weighing 956 lbs sold at 130.00, which is approximately a 5.00-10.00 premium from most of the other auctions reporting the same cattle.  Currently the slaughter cattle cash market has support from several positive factors; however, the futures market is having a hard time absorbing the news, leading to a wide basis.  All eyes were on the Fed Cattle Exchange on Wednesday morning as prices were higher, with an average price of 128.39.  The highest priced cattle sold at 131.50.  This was on a 205 head lot out of Nebraska, which demonstrates that packers are needing numbers to keep the supply chain moving.  The direct feedlot trade followed.  Compared to last week, Western Kansas traded 2.00-3.00 higher from 127.00 to mostly 128.00 live, with a few up to 128.50.  In the Texas Panhandle live purchases traded mostly 3.00 higher at 128.00 with a few up to 130.00.  Nebraska saw active trading with trends of 4.00-5.00 higher on live sales at 131.00, with a few up to 132.00; dressed sales were 8.00 higher at 210.00.  On Wednesday in Colorado live purchases were 1.00-5.00 higher from 126.00-131.00; 126.00 was traded for 15-30 day delivery.  In the Western Corn-belt compared to last week, live purchases traded 3.00-4.00 higher from 130.00-132.00, with a few up to 134.00; dressed traded 8.00 higher at 210.00, with a few up to 215.00.  Last weekend a cold front moved in, dropping temperatures in the northern region down to the single digits and dumping several inches of snow.  The inclement weather caused numerous consignment cancellations early in the week due to transportation issues.  The cold weather helped firm the ground, allowing livestock to stay off of mud, which was an issue earlier in the season.  Oklahoma saw moisture; although, it was only in limited amounts.  The upcoming forecast calls for warmer temperatures and next Monday, March 20th will finally mark the first official day of spring.  Farmers and ranchers are hoping for much needed rain to benefit planting and grazing.  Areas in the southern plains continue to fight wildfires, with millions of acres burned and thousands of livestock lost.  The agriculture community has come together and donated bales of hay and raised
hundreds of thousands of dollars for the fire disaster relief fund.  Convoys of semi-trucks hauling hay were spotted moving into the affected areas and unloading bales at distribution points.  Many sale barns across the U.S. have donated a steer and resold it or fundraised by other means to raise money for a worthy cause.  Auction volume this week included 64 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 44 percent heifers.
SOURCE:  USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, MO