The spring cattle market rally was beginning to bloom this week, with yearling feeder cattle trading firm to $5 higher and instances of $6 to $8 higher. Direct sales were reported as very active. Steer and heifer calves sold steady to $5 higher.
Buyers were aggressive on all classes of feeder cattle as weather warmed and grass turned green throughout much of the Central Plains. Cattlemen report dry conditions across much of the region, though the Southern Plains received rain. Auction markets report grass fever is rampant as local feeders and backgrounders were in the seats as buyers this week.
Demand remains very good for popular weight steer calves weighing 400-650 pounds, with many auctions selling 500-550 pound steer calves near or above $3 per pound.
The cash fed cattle trade was extremely light by late Friday, with cattle feeders holding firm to asking prices of $165 per cwt. Packers were swimming around those offerings, with only a few taking the bobber under in Kansas and Nebraska at $165, $2 higher than last week. Early sales on a dressed basis in the Eastern Cornbelt were at $262 to $263 per cwt.
The market leverage seems to be swinging toward the feeders as futures markets moved higher and Choice boxed beef rallied above $250 per cwt. Select closed at $246.71.
Market analysts are calling fed cattle supplies seasonally and historically tight, giving the market a stronger undertone. Fed slaughter for the week is estimated at 531,000, which is 55,000 under the same week a year ago.
Slaughter cows and bulls sold mostly steady to $1 per cwt. higher. USDA's Cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday at noon was $231.81 up .70 from last Friday.