A firmer tone was noted in cattle markets this week. Cash fed cattle traded late in the week at $161 per cwt., steady with the previous week on a light test. Packers were said to need more cattle and many feedyards went into the weekend pricing showlists at $163. Cattle sold on a dressed basis for an average of $257 per cwt.
Significantly higher bids were found in feeder cattle and calf markets as warmer weather brought both cattle and buyers to the auctions. Yearlings were called firm to $5 per cwt. higher, with instances of $6 to $10 higher throughout the Midwest and Northern Plains. Many markets in the Southwest and Southeast saw feeder cattle and calf bids $10 to $15 per cwt. higher.
Despite the optimism brought on by "grass fever," analysts have difficulty finding margin opportunities for graziers. Grazing cattle are relatively high-priced and deferred feeder futures fail to offer decent rewards. However, analysts note that feeder futures have exhibited an upswing in recent days, though Friday's market was lower on profit taking.
Boxed beef prices declined for the week despite smaller slaughter numbers. The Choice cutout dropped $2.36 per cwt. from the week before to close Friday at $244.12. The Select cutout fell 39 cents for the week to close at $244.07. The Choice-Select spread was a nickel, versus $4.09 last week.
Slaughter cows and bulls sold steady to $2 per cwt. higher. USDA's Cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday afternoon was $230.69, up 92 cents from the previous Friday.