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Cash cattle were unable to find much support, with the brunt of the week’s sales struggling to bring $114. Live cattle traded at the $110-114 mark all week, while dressed steers traded from $179-181. The week prior, a total of 84,242 cash cattle sold. Live steers averaged $114.06 and dressed steers $181.60. Formula cattle continue to trade at a higher premium, with cattle selling from $182-186.

Cash trade developed earlier in the week than usual, which could have contributed to lower prices. Typically, feedlots can fetch higher prices when they wait to sell later in the week. Packers are running high processing speeds and are in demand for cattle.

The Fed Cattle Exchange listed 1,592 head Wednesday for their weekly online sale. Of that, 757 head sold from Texas/Oklahoma/New Mexico. Heifers sold for $114.08 and steers for $114.

“The live cattle contracts are trying to trade higher, but with cash cattle selling steady to somewhat weaker, the support to rally the contracts just isn’t there,” remarked ShayLe Stewart, DTN livestock analyst in her midday Thursday comments.

Live cattle contracts traded lower: The April contract settled at $118.50 and the June contract at $116.97.

Boxed beef prices corrected themselves all week, down almost $10 since topping uncharacteristically high in February. As of Thursday afternoon, the Choice cutout was sitting at $233.88 and the Select cutout at $221.68, down about $7 from the week prior.

Processing speeds have held strong, and slaughter totaled 485,000 head as of Thursday afternoon. USDA released actual slaughter numbers for the week of the mid-February storm, which totaled 549,000 head. Steer carcass weights have also dropped 10 pounds to 909 lbs. Processors were able to crank their speeds up following the storm, and slaughter for the week ending Feb. 27 is projected at 666,000 head.

Packers continue to reap high margins, with the Sterling Profit Tracker recording packers receiving $429.52 per head for the week ending Feb. 26. This is a substantial increase over the same time a year earlier, which was $69.02. Feedlot margins are sitting at about $13.50, compared to a week earlier at $82.66 and a year earlier at $62.40.

Feeder cattle

Feeder cattle contracts lost several dollars from the week prior. The March contract settled at $135.10 and the April contract at $138.97. The CME Feeder Cattle Index was down several dollars to $136.07.

Corn prices were up and down all week, but still hover around the $5.50 mark. The March contract settled at $5.46 on Thursday.

“Feeder cattle sales continue at large basis discounts to the feeder board. High priced corn has hurt replacement prices and made them a slave to corn prices,” commented the folks at the Cattle Report.

“Few purchases of feeder cattle satisfy a successful financial proforma based on current corn cost and the live cattle futures contracts. Most breakevens are largely negative. March is likely to be a large month for cattle movements and pen space will be tight.”

Stewart noted demand for grass calves continues to be where the market is finding most of its interest.

Colorado: Winter Livestock in La Junta sold 2,130 head Tuesday. Compared to the previous sale, feeder steers under 400 lbs. sold $3-5 higher; 400-700 lbs. sold steady to $2 higher, except five-weights sold $3-5 lower. Feeder heifers under 500 lbs. sold steady to $3 lower, with the decline on 450-500 lbs.; 500-700 lbs. sold $1-3 higher. Feeder steers and heifers over 700 lbs. sold mostly steady. Benchmark steers averaging 724 lbs. sold between $133-138.

Iowa: Russell Livestock in Russell sold 4,311 head Monday. Compared to the week prior, 450-650 lbs. sold generally steady; 650-900 lbs. sold steady to $4 lower. Heifer calves 450-650 lbs. were mostly $2-4 higher; 650-800 lbs. sold generally steady. Benchmark steers averaging 771 lbs. sold between $131-144.

Kansas: Winter Livestock in Dodge City sold 3,145 head Wednesday. Compared to the prior sale, feeder steers 700-975 lbs. sold $1-2 lower; six-weights sold $2 higher. Steer calves 400-600 lbs. sold steady to $2 lower. Steer and heifer three-weights sold $3-5 higher. Heifers 400-800 lbs. sold $2-4 lower. Feeder heifer eight-weights sold steady. Benchmark steers averaging 778 lbs. sold between $129-137.50.

Missouri:  Joplin Regional Stockyards in Carthage sold 13,551 head Monday. Compared to the week prior, steers and heifers traded steady with good buyer attendance and active bidding. Benchmark steers averaging 732 lbs. sold between $134-140.25.

New Mexico: Roswell Livestock Auction in Roswell sold 2,058 head Monday. Compared to prior sale: Steer calves under 600 lbs. sold mixed; three-weights sold with instances of $5 higher; 500-550 lbs. sold $10 higher; 550-600 lbs. sold $6 lower. Feeders and calves over 600 lbs. sold $5 higher. Heifer calves under 600 lbs. sold $3-6 lower; over 600 lbs. sold steady to $2 lower. Benchmark steers averaging 750 lbs. sold for $120.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City sold 12,800 head Monday. Compared to the prior week’s light test, feeder steers sold $3-4 lower; feeder heifers sold $1-3 lower. Stocker steers and calves sold $2-4 higher; stocker heifers and calves sold $5-10 higher. Benchmark steers averaging 723 lbs. sold between $133.50-159.

South Dakota: Sioux Falls Regional Cattle Auction in Worthing sold 5,973 head Monday. Compared to the last sale, feeder steers sold $3-7 lower, except 450-500 lbs. sold $1-2 higher.  Heifers sold steady to $3 lower, except 450-550 lbs. sold $1-2 higher. Benchmark steers averaging 723 lbs. sold between $139-151.

Wyoming: Torrington Livestock in Torrington sold 4,555 head Wednesday. Compared to the week prior, steer and heifer calves under 700 lbs. traded steady to $2 lower. There was no test on cattle over 700 lbs. as there were limited numbers. Benchmark steers averaging 757 lbs. sold between $147.50-148. — Anna Miller, WLJ editor

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