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The market is starting to get into the swing of things as spring blooms. Most sides of the market traded higher last week, and cash trade finally found some momentum after nearly two months of sideways trading.

“With boxed beef prices climbing higher and higher, the market stands firm, growing in confidence,” remarked ShayLe Stewart, DTN livestock analyst, in her Thursday comments.

“It’s been a great week for both the lean hog and cattle contracts as trader support has been superb and the market’s fundamentals keep encouraging higher trade as demand for both pork and beef proteins remains strong,” she continued.

The April contract was up to $119.55 and the June contract was up to $121.07, about a dollar and two-and-a-half dollars higher from the prior week, respectively.

Cash cattle traded higher, from $113-116, with the bulk of trade taking place in the middle of the week. Dressed steers sold from $183-185. Cash trade the week ending March 19 totaled 80,719 head. Live steers averaged $114.21 and dressed steers averaged $181.26.

The Fed Cattle Exchange hosted its weekly online sale Wednesday and offered 2,633 head. Of that, 1,550 head sold, averaging $115.89. Texas/Oklahoma/New Mexico sold the brunt of the sales, offering 1,281 head that averaged $115. Nebraska sold the remaining 1,377 head for an average of $116.

Slaughter as of Thursday totaled 475,000 head, compared with the prior week’s number of 453,000 head—slaughter was lower as a Nebraska plant was down for maintenance—and last year’s number of 492,000 head.

Slaughter the week ending March 20 totaled 524,000 head. USDA released actual slaughter data for week ending March 13, and slaughter totaled 648,539 head.

Boxed beef prices have trended higher with spring demand on the rise. The Choice cutout was up higher to $236.45 and the Select cutout was up to $226.25, up about $8 each from the week prior.

“As COVID cases decline, both retail and hotel/restaurant trade will be planning springtime beef features,” remarked the folks at the Cattle Report. “Restaurants that have been closed or pared back are reopening and anticipate full dining capacity soon. Grocers will plan features on steaks for spring cookouts in the coming weeks.”

Feeder cattle

“When feedlots see steady fat cattle prices for weeks on end and rallying corn prices, there’s very little incentive for feeder buyers to want to jump into more calves,” Stewart said. “Thankfully, this week’s market has started building some optimism back into the market and things are starting to show opportunity, though the market still needs to secure significant positioning.”

Feeder cattle were higher, with the March contract at $136.15 and the April contract higher to $144.22, several dollars higher from the week prior. Thursday’s CME Feeder Cattle Index was reported at $135.62, up about $1.30 from the week prior. May corn was lower by about 10 cents to $5.46.

Colorado: Winter Livestock in La Junta sold 439 head Tuesday. Compared to the previous sale, feeder steers and heifers under 700 lbs. sold steady to $2 lower in a light test. Feeder steers and heifers over 700 lbs. sold $1-2 lower. Benchmark steers averaging 721 lbs. sold for $128.

Kansas: Winter Livestock in Dodge City sold 2,606 head Wednesday. Compared to the prior week, feeder steers 700-900 lbs. sold $3-4 higher; steer calves 400-700 lbs. sold $2-5 lower. Heifers 400-900 lbs. sold $5-6 higher. Benchmark steers averaging 781 lbs. sold between $134-139.

Missouri: Joplin Regional Stockyards in Carthage sold 5,898 head Monday. Compared to the prior sale, feeder steers under 600 lbs. sold steady; over 600 lbs. sold up to $5 higher. Feeder heifers sold steady to $2 higher. Benchmark steers averaging 774 lbs. sold between $134-136.

Nebraska: Bassett Livestock Auction in Bassett sold 3,155 head Wednesday. There was no recent market test for an accurate comparison. Demand was good with several buyers and high internet bidding. Fleshy benchmark steers averaging 741 lbs. sold for $136.

New Mexico: Roswell Livestock Auction in Roswell sold 1,134 head Tuesday. Compared to a week earlier, steer and heifer calves and feeders sold mostly $2-4 higher. Benchmark steers averaging 755 lbs. sold between $125-127.50.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City sold 10,199 head Monday. Compared to the last sale, feeder cattle and calves sold steady and demand was moderate to good. Benchmark steers averaging 769 lbs. sold between $129.50-139.

South Dakota: Sioux Falls Regional Cattle Auction in Worthing sold 2,738 head Monday. Compared to two weeks prior, feeder steers sold $2-5 higher, except 600-650 lbs. sold $6-9 higher, and over 1,000 lbs. sold with higher undertones. Feeder heifers sold steady to $3 higher, except 600-650 lbs. sold $4-5 higher. Benchmark steers averaging 780 lbs. sold between $142-146.50.

Wyoming: Torrington Livestock in Torrington sold 4,250 head Wednesday. Compared to the last sale two weeks ago, steers and heifers under 700 lbs. sold $8-10 higher. Feeder cattle over 700 lbs. traded mostly steady. Benchmark steers averaging 776 lbs. sold between $143-152. — Anna Miller, WLJ managing editor

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