Compared to last week, feeder steers and heifers sold mostly steady to 7.00 lower, with some instances 1.00-5.00 higher. Feeder steers and heifers in the southeast traded mostly steady to 3.00 lower.  Demand was moderate to good for all weight classes.  The higher prices were generally noted on limited supply of weaned calves suitable for grazing and heavy yearlings with less time expected in the feedlot as they are hoping to cash in before slaughter prices fall.  Perhaps the feeder market has reached the point of topping or tipping as the word “lower” has reared its head on market reports the last couple of weeks across the country.  However, it would be difficult to call demand much lighter as some large sales especially through the Northern Plains had good runs this week.  The cattle futures and box beef cut-out values took a hit this week, adding to the bearishness in the feeder market. However, the market saw optimism from the fact that buyers are still looking for good quality grazing calves and replacement heifers to improve their herds.  In Bassett, Neb. on Wednesday a load of 780 lb replacement heifers sold for 161.00 to be bred this summer for next year’s calving season and over 600 head of 650-700 lb steers averaging 681 lbs sold at a weighted average price of 155.74 and 570 head averaging 718 lbs sold at a weighted average price of 150.33.  Valentine, Neb. sold a pot load of steer calves weighing 560 lbs bring 194.00.  To a certain extent, other parts of the region also saw similar trends.  The fed cattle exchange on Wednesday morning had over 3500 head on offer, but no cattle sold as consignors passed on bids.  Feed yards came into the week with no leverage on the negotiating table after last week’s fall in the cash market and without help from the board as well as packers are pulling on contract cattle and cattle bought over the last several weeks.  Packers and feedlot operators are now at a standoff with trade yet to fully develop for the week at press time.  Many throughout the Plains and Midwest saw a much needed spring rain and cooler temperatures, which curtailed receipts in most of the affected areas.  The wet conditions slowed the cattle movement, making it impossible to load and deliver livestock to the nearest auction barn.  Within the last two weeks the trade area saw drought monitors less colorful, as several inches of rain fell throughout the area.  This improved pastures and pond levels; however, it also created very muddy conditions, especially in feedlots.  Un-weaned fall calves are starting to make their way to the market and buyers are quick to place discounts, especially if they are too fleshy.  The unseasonably warm temperatures have cattle gaining at a rapid pace and adding flesh condition effortlessly.  Producers are slowly changing their attention to calving, and with the weather improving for the next several days, field work and spring planting is in the near distance.  Auction volume this week included 56 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 43 percent heifers.
SOURCE: USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, MO