Feedyards aggressively placed cattle on feed during October, which may fill any marketing hole expected late this winter. Cash fed cattle prices softened the past two weeks as retailers look to feature turkey this coming holiday week and beef packers have struggled with negative margins.
USDA’s November Cattle on Feed report recorded on-feed placements at 2.39 million head, 10 percent above the same month a year ago. Marketings were pegged at 1.86 million head, up 1 percent from last year. Total November 1 on feed inventories were called 10.6 million head, down 6 percent from last year, but within the pre-report estimates.
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Cash fed cattle traded at $131 per cwt., $1 lower than last week. Dressed sales were also $1 lower at $206 to $207 per cwt.
The week’s bearish tone was also felt in the feeder cattle markets as those weighing over 600 pounds sold steady to $3 per cwt. lower. Lighter-weight calves were called unevenly steady to $5 per cwt. higher with the full advance noted on 4-weight steers, especially across the Southeast.
USDA Market News reporter Corbitt Wall noted feeder cattle were pressured early in the week with CME cattle futures opening significantly lower.
"However, lower price levels on feedlot replacement cattle are inevitable this time of year as a larger percentage of these cattle are merely big calves, while true yearling supplies have been exhausted," Wall says. "Calf demand remains very good as tight inventories of all classes of beef cattle are now blatant and many areas have sizeable stockpiles of hay and winter pasture to hold calves."
Wall says some weakening of calf markets was seen late in the week as "Southern order buyers didn’t want to get stuck with partial loads with Thanksgiving week coming up, plus another winter front moved across the Plains with freezing rains and snow flurries."
Boxed beef prices ended the week steady to slightly higher. Choice boxed beef traded at $198.92 per cwt., with Select boxes at $186.82. The Choice-Select spread was $12.10.