Cattle market fundamentals may remain favorable, but April’s expected rally has fizzled. Both feeder and fed cattle traded significantly lower this week, with cash fed cattle prices now $9 lower than just three weeks ago.
In the Southern Plains fed cattle sold $2 to $5 lower than last week and $2 to $4 lower in Kansas. Nebraska was called $3 lower. Trade in the south was at $157 to $158 per cwt., with trade in the North at $158 to $160.50 per cwt. Cattle on a dressed basis sold at $253 to $257.
Choice cutout prices traded Friday at $256.99, down $1 from last week. The Select cutout traded at $247.62, down $3 from the previous week. The Choice/Select cutout was $9.37.
Yearling feeder cattle sold mostly $5 to $8 per cwt. lower than the previous week, with instances of $10 lower. The greatest pressure was seen on cattle weighing over 800 pounds. Steer and heifer calves traded unevenly steady to mostly $5 per cwt. lower, with “unweaned and fleshy” calves trading $10 to $15 lower.
Slaughter cows and bulls sold steady to $1 per cwt. higher. USDA's Cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday afternoon was $234.28 per cwt., up 51 cents from last Friday.
Cattle traders were mildly surprised by USDA’s April cattle on feed report as both placements and the total on feed numbers came in higher than expected.
Total cattle on feed were pegged at 10.8 million head, slightly higher than last year. The placement of 1.81 million head during March was equal to last year’s total, but 4.5% higher than traders expected in a pre-report survey. Marketings of fed cattle during March totaled 1.63 million head, 2% below 2014. March Marketings are the lowest since the series began in 1996.
Data in the report also supports ideas the industry is in full expansion mode. The number of heifers on feed totaled 3.34 million head, down 10% from 2014. The number of steers and steer calves on feed totaled 7.46 million head, up 5% from last year, and accounts for 69% of the total.