Compared to last week, steer and heifer calves sold mostly steady to 5.00 higher, with instances 1.00-2.00 lower in the north central.  Feeder steers and heifers traded uneven, seeing prices 3.00 lower to 5.00 higher.  Demand continues to be very good for grazing calves, as cattle raisers are eager to turn their cattle out on grass.  Due to limited numbers, premiums were paid for good quality, long-time weaned calves with all their shots; with discounts placed on fleshy, un-weaned soft bawling calves.  In a few sale barns 300 lb steer and bull calves started to break the 2.00 mark, as buyers are willing to
pay more for these cattle if they have the right condition.  Early in the week, severe thunderstorms swept through the Plains and Midwest, knocking out power and causing substantial damage to structures.  Some areas reported heavy rain, which was beneficial to pastures as many regions in the mid-section of the country are dry.  High winds, with gusts up to 70 MPH, and tornados were reported in portions of the affected area.  In the southern plains, brush fires continue to burn, with thousands of acres burned and livestock lost.  The area is hoping for some relief, with moisture forecasted as we head into the weekend.  Another front is projected for the weekend, with snow expected.  In parts of the north receipts were limited due to inclement weather.  On the other hand, demand for feeders is moderate to good.  The cash slaughter cattle market continues to trade at a double digit premium to the April live cattle contract.  The June contract and later months are mostly at a double digit discount to April, making feeder buyers cautious as they purchase cattle.  Slaughter cattle continue to receive support from higher boxed beef prices, a decline in carcass weights, feedlots staying current and good demand for beef exports and the domestic market.  The beef retail department is finding that lower prices are driving a greater willingness for premium beef products to be purchased by consumers and retail ads are full of beef promotions as beef regains favor with consumers.  The unusually warm winter has wheat pastures maturing ahead of schedule.  Many of the cattle coming off wheat came in earlier than usual and are tipping the scales between 800-1000 lbs.  Many are thinking the run is near for cattle coming off wheat.  In the feedlot trade on Wednesday, live cattle in the Texas Panhandle traded mostly steady to 1.00 higher at 125.00.  In Kansas live cattle sales were mostly steady at 125.00. In Nebraska live purchases traded 1.00-2.00 higher from 126.00-127.00 and dressed sales were steady to 2.00 higher from 200.00-202.00.  Colorado live sales were steady to 1.00 higher from 125.00-126.00.  In the Western Corn-belt live sales traded 2.00-4.00 higher from 127.00-128.00 and dressed sales were 2.00 higher at 202.00. Auction volume this week included 64 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 42 percent heifers.
SOURCE: USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, MO