Compared to last week, steers and heifers sold 2.00 lower to 2.00 higher in the North and South Central areas while the Southeast steers and heifers were 2.00 to 5.00 higher. Grazing calves in all areas were in demand this week as procurement was essential to ranchers this week. Ranchers are gearing up for grazing season as many areas have ample moisture for this time of year. When looking at the drought monitor this week, most of the severely drought stricken areas from last year have all but vanished in the breadbasket of the country. Areas in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado are still showing drought effects. Order buyers were out in full force this week as fewer receipts were at sales across the country and feedyards were willing to take on replacement cattle in spite of muddy pens in the major feeding regions. Winter Storm Nadia is tracking eastward late this week after dumping feet of snow to the West. It seems like Mother Nature wants winter to hang on as long as possible and cow-calf producers are sure hoping Punxsutawney Phil is correct and spring will be here very shortly. Fed cattle prices were higher last week after six weeks of ho-hum steady markets. Feedyards just couldn’t get over the proverbial hump to get to 125.00 until last week. This week’s trading has not yet been established as of this writing. Packers are very aware that cattle weights are not as large as they were last year this time, thus bringing less volume of meat to the market on similar head counts. This week’s Valentine’s Day holiday is one of the top three holidays for public eating out in restaurants with many of those customers choosing beef or a surf and turf for their entrees. Moving out of February and into March, a beef rally is expected to happen and with that should come increased fed cattle prices if the trickle down effect comes to fruition. When we get to warmer weather in the second quarter, middle meats will be front and center on retail ads with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day followed closely by Independence Day buying. For the week, the Choice cutout closed 1.50 higher at 216.85, while Select was 0.18 lower at 210.99. Cattle Slaughter under federal inspection estimated at 596K for the week, 24K less than last week and 6K less than a year ago. Auction volume this week included 58 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 43 percent heifers.
Source: USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, Mo.