Compared to last week, steers and heifers sold uneven; from steady to 2.00 lower in the North Central area to steady to 4.00 higher in the Southeast and South Central areas.  Some auctions in the Southern areas reported spots up to as much as 10.00 higher on what would be considered cattle suitable for grazing and demand for those kind is expected to be good in anticipation of grass.  Most grazing areas are not showing any signs of drought stress currently.  Another widespread area of colder weather along with precipitation hit the breadbasket of the country this week after last week’s Polar Vortex that left many shaking their head and knowing that one thing they cannot change is Mother Nature.  The CME Cattle Complex was higher on the week with the largest increases bookending this week.  The front six Feeder Cattle contracts were 1.58 to 2.30 higher on the week while Live Cattle contracts were 1.35 to 1.92 higher for the same timeframe.  For the first 4 days into the February Live Cattle contract, there have been 100 certificates tendered for delivery.  With the negotiated cash fed cattle trading stuck around the 123.00-124.00 level for the past 6 weeks and delivery month February around 127.00 plus or minus, it has made for a hedger to consider delivering cattle on the contract with that 3.00 to 4.00 difference.  Cash fed cattle trading has just started in NE as of this writing with dressed sales at 200.00, 2.00 higher than last week.  Lives sales in the South have not been established yet, however a higher market is expected as feedlots are currently passing higher bids than the previous week.  Cow Calf producers still have some optimism as some replacement quality heifers have fetched higher prices than their steer mates this week.  On Wednesday at Green City Livestock Auction in Green City, Mo. a short half load of yearling replacement heifers weighing 729 lbs sold at 180.00 or just a tick over $1300.00 per head.  Also on Wednesday at Bassett Livestock Auction Market in Bassett, Neb. a half load of 717 lb heifers sold at 156.50.  For the week, the Choice cutout closed 1.09 higher at 215.35, while Select was 1.98 lower at 211.17.  Cattle Slaughter under federal inspection estimated at 614K for the week, 21K higher than last week and 25K more than a year ago.  Preliminary Yearly Federally Inspected Slaughter cattle numbers for 2018 showed a 2.6 percent increase over 2017 and a 7.2 percent larger harvest over the previous five year average.  Steer slaughter posted a 0.8 percent decline while heifer slaughter was 6.4 percent larger year over year.   Steers arrived at 4.1 percent increase and heifers an 11.3 percent increase over their previous five year averages.  Total cow slaughter in 2018 was 7.0 percent over year ago and 10.4 percent over the previous five year average.  Beef cow slaughter showed the way with an 8.6 percent larger number than a year ago and 14.1 percent larger than the previous five year average.  Hog Slaughter for 2018 was 2.6 percent larger than the previous year.  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.