Cattle feeders entered the week asking $150 for harvest-ready steers. Packers may have swallowed hard, but with positive margins they paid up to keep beef moving through the pipeline. The result was new record-high prices for fed cattle at $150.50.
Both packers and feeders are operating with positive margins.
Cash fed cattle traded $5 to $6 per cwt. higher, with sales in Nebraska at $148 to $150.50, and sales in the Southern Plains at $148 to $149. Dressed sales in Nebraska were $11 to $13 per cwt. higher at $239 to $241, mostly $240.
Choice boxed beef prices ended Friday at $238.55, with Select at $236.93. The Choice-Select spread was $1.63. Slaughter cows sold steady to $1 higher, with the exception of the Southeast where prices were $3 to $4 lower. Slaughter bulls sold steady to firm. USDA’s cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday morning was $174.78, up 61 cents from last Friday.
Friday’s Cattle on Feed Report was called slightly bearish as placements were higher than expected and marketings were lower than expected. Total cattle on feed was estimated at 10.725 million head, down 5 percent (600,000 head) from last year. Placements totaled 1.68 million head, 1 percent higher than last year. Marketings were estimated at 1.736 million head, down 1 percent from last year.
Yearling feeder cattle and calves weighing over 600 pounds were called steady to $2 lower. Lightweight calves sold firm to $4 higher. USDA Market News reporter Corbitt Wall says auction receipts have been heavy the past two weeks, but he looks for them to lighten up going forward.
"Most yearlings and large reputation calf strings are now gone and the number of pee-wee calves on offer was extremely large for this time of year," Wall says. "Also, a large percentage of feeder sales in the Southern Plains were off wheat which all spells that offerings will be slim pickings this spring."