The cattle markets put on a good show for the holiday-shortened week last week with almost everything seeing week-to-week gains. All save for the beef cutouts that is.

As of close of trade Wednesday, the Choice cutout edged slightly lower at $232.24 than the prior week’s Friday close of $232.57. The net 33 cent loss came after a short week of back-and-forth trade. The Select cutout lost a net 68 cents to close Wednesday at $210.64.

“Boxed beef prices have bottomed for a minute,” commented Cassie Fish of the Beef Report. “[T]he next big correction to come after Dec. 6th when middle meats begin their correction in earnest.”

Seasonally, beef cutouts drift lower into December and pick up into January ahead of Valentine’s Day procurement.

Cattle prices on the other hand tend to trend steady to up in December and start to climb in January. That trend might have made an appearance last week, though the confirmed weekly trade volume of just under 16,800 head as of Wednesday afternoon made trends difficult to tell. Prices were $117-118 (average $117.64) live and $187-188 ($187.05) dressed. If representative of the week’s negotiated cash fed trade, that was up about $1 live and $2.50 dressed compared to the week before.

“I’ve heard of luck traipsing around Christmas, but I don’t know that I recall cattlemen touting that Thanksgiving ever shared that much luck with them,” commented DTN’s ShayLe Stewart on Wednesday afternoon.

“I guess it’s a good thing that 2019 is a year full of changes, and this week brings some good changes.”

In particular, she noted that last week’s futures reaction to the winter storms that blanketed the Central Plains with snow was not usual.

“One would have thought that a nasty snowstorm and a shorter week would have left contracts to fend for themselves while families gather around the kitchen table for the Thanksgiving holiday, but that’s simply not the case this time around. Live cattle contracts have been fierce about making steady, significant gains the last couple of days and cash trade has kept packers glued to their phones seeing what other packers are bidding and if feeders have sold yet.”

Compared to the settlements of Friday, Nov. 22, last week’s Wednesday settlements of $121.43 December and $126.70 for February were up about $3. The near-term feeder cattle futures made roughly $4 gains with January settling at $143.33 and the March contract settling at $143.93.

Cash feeder trade was less exuberant. Given the holiday and its effect on last week’s trade schedule, many feeder auctions simply didn’t happen. Of those that did, offerings were notably smaller and prices were mixed. Medium and large #1 steers weighing between 700-800 lbs. were generally averaging in the $140s.

Iowa: The Russell Livestock Feeder Cattle auction sold over 1,000 head more feeders last week compared to the week before. All classes of feeders were called generally steady, with the exception of 4-weight heifer calves, which traded $1-3 higher. Two lots of #1, 7-weight yearling steers ranged from $144-153.50.

Missouri: Over 13,000 head of feeder cattle sold last week at the Joplin Regional Stockyards, up over 5,000 head compared to the prior week. Feeder calves sold down $3-5 and yearlings sold steady for steers and steady to up $3 for heifers. Demand was called moderate. Prices on benchmark yearling steers ranged from $137-157.50, with averages mostly in the mid-$140s.

Montana: The Miles City feeder auction sold about two-thirds of the volume of feeders last week as it did the week before. This made for too few yearlings for a proper market trend. Steer calves under 550 lbs. sold down sharply at $10-14 while heavier steer calves were steady to down $3. For heifers, the best test was on 4- and 5-weights, which were $4-6 lower, with others said to have a higher undertone. The winter storm was cited as cutting demand and limiting buyer presence. Only two head of #1, 7-weight steers (unweaned calves) sold, bringing $139. Unweaned 6-weights ranged from $139.50-151.

Nebraska: Offering numbers were steady at the Tri-State Livestock Auction of McCook. Steers were called steady to down $2 except for 5-weights, down $4. Heifers were $2-4 higher and demand was called good. Two benchmark steer lots sold; the yearlings averaged $150.50 while the bawling calves averaged $140.

New Mexico: The Roswell Livestock Auction saw steady volumes of cattle at mixed prices. Feeders under 600 lbs. were down $5-7 while heavier feeders were mostly steady with instances of $3 higher on 6-weight heifers. Trade and demand were called moderate, and the storm and the holiday were blamed for lower participation than usual. Three small lots of benchmark steers were sold with prices ranging from $116-127, with the unweaned lot setting the base.

Oklahoma: The National Stockyards sold slightly more than a third of the volume last week they sold the week before. Both yearling steers and steer calves were called steady to up $1. Heifer calves were up $1-3 with 5-weights trading $7-8 higher. Numerous lots of benchmark steers sold with prices split by status; yearlings sold $140-150.50 while unweaned calves and “full” yearlings ranged from $132-136.

South Dakota: The Sioux Falls Regional auction sold a third of its earlier volume last week as well. The only comparisons were on 5- and 6-weight steer calves at $5-10 higher. Two lots of #1, 7-weight steers sold at $149-158.

Wyoming: The Winter Livestock Auction sold a quarter of its previous volume last week, making for no comparable sales. Low turnout was blamed on the winter storm that dumped over a foot of snow on much of the central states. Only one small lot of benchmark steers sold and averaged $131. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ editor

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