Compared to last week, steer and heifer calves suitable for summer turnout sold steady to 5.00 higher in the Plains, while those were steady to 3.00 lower in the Southeast.  Steers and heifers over 600 lbs were steady to 3.00 higher.  Demand was reported to be good to very good in many locations nationwide this week in spite of trying weather and conditions through the center part of the country.  Cancellations of regular scheduled sales or severely curtailed receipts were common place in early week action in the Southern and Northern Plains if ice had accumulated any at all.  Order buyers got back in the saddle mid to late week and paid up with higher prices in a vast majority of auctions.  On Wednesday in Bassett, NE a load of 810 lb steers with all the bells and whistles sold for 141.25 while a load of 630 lb replacement quality heifers rung the bell at 150.00.  Optimism was prevalent this week again as fed cattle continue to surge in the post holiday trading weeks.  This week, fed cattle rose another 3.00 to 4.00 as live trading transpired at 122.00 to 123.00 and dressed sales were 5.00 higher at 195.00.  A pattern has come to light the past couple weeks that after fed cattle trade occurs, there is a sell off on the CME Board.  Market participants are protecting their positions to take advantage of this recent run-up in the market since Thanksgiving.  Along with the handsome prices paid to producers, packers took on some inventory again as over 100K was sold in the 5 Area again this week.  Since the week before Christmas, live sales have gained 7.00 and dressed sales have increased 15.00.  During that same time frame, Choice Boxed beef has risen from around 197.00 to over 203.00 between the Holidays to close at 190.42 today.  January to December 2016 commercial red meat production was 50.4 billion pounds, up 4 percent from 2015. Accumulated beef production was up 6 percent from last year and pork was up 2 percent from last year.  For CY2016, average steer weight was reported at 891 lbs, down 1 lb from a year ago; while the average yearly heifer weight is reported at 822 lbs, up 4 pounds from the previous year.  This would suggest that feedlots are keeping their marketings current at the present time and if packers continue to put more dollars in the pocket of the producers, they will continue to push cattle through the pipeline.  After Monday’s very short cattle harvest of 69,000 head, packers still harvested 569K for the week.  Had it not been for ice in the Plains on Sunday and Monday, there would be no doubt that harvest would’ve been over 600K this week.  Auction volume this week included 54 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 41 percent heifers.
SOURCE:  USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, MO