Compared to last week, steers and heifers sold steady to 3.00 higher. There was good to very good demand for those steers and heifers under 700 lbs that are suitable for grazing. As the calendar turns to April, grass is expected to pop very soon if warmer temperatures can move into the Plains and the upper Midwest. Flint Hills calves haven’t been turned out yet, but ranchers are chomping at the bit to get to grass time. Slow grass growth at this time is due to the colder than normal and waterlogged soil conditions throughout the midsection of the country. Buyers very critical of excessive flesh, especially on heifers as the market activity slowed substantially if they were over conditioned. After last week’s downward trend in the futures contracts, early week sales had cattle buyers more cautious when procuring heavier cattle. Another reversal this week saw slight to moderate gains in the CME Cattle Complex. Five of the front six months of Live Cattle contracts were 1.30 to 1.70 higher on the week with only the front month April being 0.35 higher. Feeder Cattle contracts were 0.47 to 1.45 higher on the week. This week, negotiated cash fed cattle trading in the Southern Plains were 2.00 lower at 124.00 on Wednesday, while the Northern Plains live trading on Friday was steady with the previous week at 126.00. Dressed sales in Nebraska were steady with last week at 206.00. Fed cattle slaughter weights continue to be lower than a year ago. Steer dressed weights are 12 lbs below a year ago and heifers are 11 lbs below a year ago. Carcass weights are bound to see some more decline as calf-feds are on the horizon. Packers are managing their inventory rather well for this time of year as end product tonnage is below a year ago. For the week, the Choice cutout closed 0.89 higher at 226.93, while Select was 1.39 higher at 220.28. Cattle Slaughter under federal inspection estimated at 621K for the week, 7K more than last week and 6K more than a year ago. Auction volume this week included 52 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 44 percent heifers.
Source: USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, Mo.