Compared to last week, steers and heifers sold mostly 1.00 to 4.00 higher with instances 6.00 higher. Many auctions saw diminished receipts for the second week in a row. Buyers were willing to purchase calves for grazing this week and those calves could see some health problems in the coming weeks if they weren’t weaned and vaccinated. Large swings in temperatures from mid-week to the weekend are being forecast and can wreak havoc on a calves’ immune systems if the vaccination protocols aren’t followed. The big story this week has been the Polar Vortex that encompassed 70 percent of the U.S. population seeing freezing temperatures or below. Regular temperatures in many areas of the Northern Plains and Midwest saw the mercury stay in the little bulb at the bottom of the thermometer. Travel mid-week was brutal on both man and beast and some auctions either rescheduled due to the cold or cancelled this week altogether. Those in the North took a pause in marketing somewhat to make sure animals were tended to and tried not to overwork as the temperatures took a toll mentally and physically. This week is being reported on major news networks as the coldest temperatures in the U.S. in a generation. Chicago on Wednesday was greeted with Antarctica weather and that isn’t supposed to happen in the middle of the U.S. The CME Cattle Complex hovered around steady Monday through Wednesday this week and then saw a technical correction on Thursday. For the week, the front six months of Live cattle contracts were 0.40 to 0.60 lower and the front six Feeder Cattle contracts were 0.47 to 1.10 lower. Fundamentals have been trying to push the market higher. Negotiated cash fed cattle need a boost and traders were anticipating a stronger market this week, however as of this writing, cash trading has not been established yet. Actual slaughter data for weeks ending Dec. 15 and 22, 2018 were released this week and the weekly difference between the cattle estimate and actuals were only 287 head for w/e Dec. 15 and only 1,079 head for w/e Dec. 22. The statement on the top of the Actual Slaughter reports expresses that reports will be published in chronological order until the data gets up to date. NASS will release the Jan. 1 Cattle on Feed report on Feb. 22 (originally scheduled for Jan. 25). In addition, the Feb. 1 Cattle on Feed report will be published on March 8 (originally scheduled for Feb. 22). For the week, the Choice cutout closed 2.75 lower at 214.26, while Select was 1.12 higher at 213.15. This is the closest Choice-Select spread (1.11) since the values were inverted (Select valued 0.07 higher than Choice) on Sept. 12, 2017. Cattle Slaughter under federal inspection estimated at 593K for the week, 17K lower than last week and 20K less than a year ago. Auction volume this week included 52 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 43 percent heifers.
Source: USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, Mo.