Feedyards and packers remained in near standoff positions Friday as both looked for signs the market would move in their favor. The trade developed late at higher money.
Cattle sold in Kansas at $163 per cwt., $2 higher than the previous week. In Nebraska, live sales were at $163 to $165 per cwt., $2 to $2.50 higher. Dressed sales were $3 to $4 per cwt higher at $260 to $261 per cwt.
The week’s cattle slaughter was estimated at 518,000, which is stunningly low because it would be the smallest non-holiday week slaughter in at least 35 years. To date, beef slaughter is 7% lower.
Yearling feeder cattle prices were called uneven, with most cattle over 700 pounds trading steady to $5 per cwt. lower. Calves traded in a wide range from the Southwest to the Southeast at steady to $5 per cwt. higher, while those in the Midwest and Northern Plains were unevenly steady to cases of $5 per cwt. lower.
Demand for grazing cattle is at a peak, especially steer calves weighing 450 to 650 pounds. Most steer calves under $550 pounds are selling near $3 per cwt. The higher quality steers weighing 600 pounds and in suitable grazing condition bring $250 per cwt.
Coice boxed beef traded Friday at $244.51 per cwt., near steady with the previous week. Select beef sold at $243.28 per cwt., slightly lower. The Choice-Select spread was $1.23 per cwt .
Slaughter cows sold $2 to $4 per cwt. lower. Slaughter bulls sold steady in Colorado and $3 to $6 per cwt. lower in Oklahoma and Alabama. USDA's Cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday afternoon was $231.11 up 42 cents from last Friday.
Cattle on feed numbers were down 1% on March 1, 2015, at 10.7 million head, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Placements of cattle during February totaled 1.52 million head, 8% lower than last year. Marketings of fed cattle during February totaled 1.52 million head, 2% below last year, and the lowest total since the series began in 1996.
USDA’s report shows the fourth straight month of lower year-on-year placements, and slightly fewer than the pre-report estimates by livestock analysts.