The general trend in the cattle markets was higher as packing plants slowly improved slaughter volume. Estimated slaughter for the week is around 550,000 head. Most plants are back online and using about 80 percent of capacity. Some packers are actively supporting the fed cattle markets paying $120 for the better cattle against a $98 futures market.
Cattle futures traded sideways on the live cattle all of this week. The June live cattle contract was $98.80 Thursday, gaining 40 cents on the day, and August was up 60 cents to close at $98.22. Feeder cattle lost ground, about $6 for the week. May went off the board Thursday at $126.02, and August feeders took over, down 12 cents on the day to close at $128.87. September feeders were at $130.12, down 37 cents.
Thursday cash trade was light on moderate demand in all feeding regions. Compared to Wednesday in the Southern Plains, a few live purchases traded steady at $120 in the Texas Panhandle and from $115-120 in Kansas. In Nebraska, a few dressed purchases traded steady compared to Wednesday with purchases from $175-190, bulk from $180-190.
The weighted average on live steers was $119.17 and dressed prices averaged $184.40. There were 21,500 head priced on the formula grid weighing 892 lbs. and averaging $181.26.
Beef values continue to decline as more beef comes on the market. Choice product was down $2.23 to $401.81 and Select lost $8.67 to close Thursday at $382.53 on 136 loads. Ninety percent lean traded higher for the week to $304.94 while 50/50 trim was down dramatically to $104.08 on about 900,000 pounds.
While feeder cattle futures were softer on the futures market the country trade was stronger. The latest CME Feeder Cattle Index was at $126.60.
Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City offered 9,100 head Thursday and compared to the week prior: Feeder steers were $1-3 higher; feeder heifers were $2-6 higher under 850 lbs.; and over 850 lbs. were $1-2 lower. Steer calves were mostly steady to firm; heifer calves were $1-4 higher. Demand was considered moderate to good for all classes. Benchmark steers 700-750 lbs. averaged $136.21.
On the West Coast special calf and yearling sales are underway with good volume. Turlock Livestock Auction offered 2,942 head at their May 16 special sale, with calves trading between $130-144 and yearling feeders were trading between $108-118. — Pete Crow, WLJ publisher