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Cattle markets traded mostly sideways last week, and then lost some ground on Thursday. With COVID-19 cases on an upward trend and Thanksgiving looming around the corner, there has been a lot of uncertainty everywhere. Slaughter capacity has been at the forefront of everyone’s mind, with rumors swirling around packing plants having to close again due to higher incidences of COVID-19 cases. So far, they’ve only been rumors.

Live cattle purchases hovered around $110 all week and dressed purchases around $172. Cash cattle numbers were relatively on trend with the week prior.

Slaughter for the week ending Nov. 13 was up to 653,000 head in anticipation of the short kill week during the week of Thanksgiving. Slaughter through Thursday was at 478,000 head.

Boxed beef prices were generally trading higher throughout the week, with the Choice cutout gaining almost $12 by Thursday to $237.70 and the Select cutout gaining almost $4.50 to $213.89.

Live cattle contracts traded mostly sideways all week but lost a few dollars on Thursday. The December contract lost about a dollar-and-a-half from the beginning of the week to $108.28 and the February contract gained about 80 cents to $113.05.

Feeder cattle

Feeder cattle also traded sideways all week, with the November and January contracts relatively unchanged at $137.10 and $137.50, respectively. The latest CME Feeder Cattle Index was released Nov. 18 and was down 17 cents to $137.38.

“Trading volume is light, too, leaving the market vulnerable to pockets of choppy price movement as the session wears on,” Elaine Kub, DTN contributing analyst, remarked in her Thursday midday comments. “Strong demand from order buyers across the country this week, particularly in anticipation of next week’s holiday, may help keep a floor under the temporary bearishness in futures.”

The corn contract saw some gains in the beginning of the week and then saw some slight losses by Thursday, with the contract still at $4.23.

“High grain prices changes the selection options for buyers who want to finish cattle in the nation’s feedyards,” noted the Beef Report. “High grain pushes buyers towards heavier offerings rather than put more high-priced feed into lighter cattle.”

Higher projected feed costs will cause some feedlots to let occupancy drop, rather than pen lighter weight cattle with breakeven dollars above board prices, the report continued. Some lighter cattle will eventually be placed in grow yards where rations are weighted more toward forage.

Colorado: Winter Livestock in La Junta sold 1,134 head last Tuesday. Compared to the Tuesday prior, steer and heifer calves sold mostly steady. Slaughter cows and bulls sold steady. Demand was moderate to good. Benchmark steers averaging 678 lbs. sold between $129-132.50, averaging $130.51.

Iowa: Russell Livestock in Russell sold 1,564 head last week. Compared to the week prior, steers under 600 lbs. sold mostly $2-9 higher, while the 600-750-lb. steers were generally steady. Heifers 500-650 lbs. were $6 lower to $2 higher and 650-700-lb. heifers were $12 higher. Benchmark steers averaging 674 lbs. sold between $134-146.25, averaging $139.04.

Kansas: Winter Livestock in Dodge City sold 3,209 head last week. Compared to the previous week, there were no recent comparisons on feeder steers under 500 lbs., however a higher market was noted. Feeder steers 500-700 lbs. sold $2-6 lower; 700-800 lbs. sold unevenly steady; and 800-900 lbs. sold $1 higher. Feeder heifers 300-600 lbs. sold unevenly steady; 600-775 lbs. sold $5 lower; 775-900 lbs. sold $1 higher. Benchmark steers averaging 781 lbs. sold between $137.25-141.75, averaging $139.30.

Missouri: Joplin Regional Stockyards in Carthage sold 8,000 head last Monday. Compared to the week prior, steer calves under 450 lbs. sold steady to $5 higher; steer calves over 450 lbs. and heifer calves sold steady; and yearlings sold steady, except 650-700-lb. steers, which sold steady to $5 higher. Benchmark steers averaging 713 lbs. sold between $135-148.25, averaging $145.96.

Nebraska: Bassett Livestock Auction in Bassett sold 2,810 head last Wednesday. Compared to the prior Wednesday, 500-650-lb. steers traded unevenly steady. Demand was good with high demand for 900-lb. yearlings. Benchmark steers averaging 790 lbs. sold between $152-153.25, averaging $152.60.

New Mexico: Roswell Livestock Auction in Roswell sold 2,681 head last week. Compared to the week prior, steer calves 300-400 lbs. sold $3-8 lower; 400-600 lbs. sold $2-9 higher, with the most advance on 550-600 lbs. Steers over 600 lbs. sold $5 higher on comparable quotes. Heifers under 500 lbs. sold unevenly steady; over 500 lbs. sold $2-6 higher on comparable quotes. A small group of benchmark steers averaging 737 lbs. sold for $129. 

Oklahoma: Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City sold 15,000 head Monday. Compared to two weeks ago, feeder steers and heifers were not well tested as the bulk of the trades were calves. Very few representative sales have been near steady. Steer calves sold $4-8 higher and heifer calves sold steady to $2 higher. Steer and heifer calves below 500 lbs. sold $10-15 higher. Benchmark steers weighing 764 lbs. sold between $133-140.50, averaging $136.68

South Dakota: Hub City Livestock Auction in Aberdeen sold 7,969 head last week. Compared to the week prior, the best test was on yearling steers 950-1,000 lbs., which sold $2-4 higher. The best test on yearling heifers was 750-800 lbs., selling mostly steady. Steer calves 400-450 lbs. sold $3-5 higher; 451-650 lbs. sold steady to $4 higher; 651-700 lbs. sold $4-5 lower. Heifer calves 450-500 lbs. sold $4-6 higher with instances of $10 higher; 501-600 lbs. sold steady to $2 higher; 601-650 lbs. sold steady. Benchmark steers weighing 767 lbs. sold between $136-150, averaging $143.62.

Wyoming: Torrington Livestock in Torrington sold 6,572 head last Thursday. Compared to the week prior, steer calves traded $2-4 higher. Heifer calves under 550 lbs. traded unevenly steady. Heifer calves over 550 lbs. traded $2 lower on comparable trades. Benchmark steers averaging 740 lbs. sold for $146. — Anna Miller, WLJ editor

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