The cattle markets last week were a story of things normalizing after the tumultuous times of the Tyson plant fire story.

After spiking in late August, bottoming in early October, and revisiting and outstripping September to top a couple weeks ago, the Choice cutout seems to be getting back in the flow of seasonal trends.

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“Boxed beef prices seasonally topped last week, but still aren’t expected to drop dramatically until the rib nosedives in a couple of more weeks,” noted Cassie Fish of the Beef Report. Cutouts on Thursday, Nov. 21, were $234.86 (-$5.94 compared to the prior Friday) for Choice and $213.86 (-47 cents) for Select.

“The focus for packers is to schedule large kills this week and the first three full weeks of December to insure order fulfillment and sales realizations. That’s it. Capturing profits and meeting demand.”

Cash fed cattle, which have regained and surpassed pre-fire prices, are also getting on the seasonal trend as well.

“The seasonal is for cash cattle prices to rise over the next six weeks and reaching $120-122 is not a stretch,” advised Fish.

By Thursday last week, over 76,000 head of negotiated cash fed cattle had been confirmed sold for the week, with Thursday prices being $115-117.50 (average $116.08) live and $181-184 ($183.93) dressed. This was up slightly for live compared to the prior week, and up about $3 for dressed.

Cash feeder cattle were also up for the most part last week, though exceptions did exist.

California: Feeder cattle were called steady at the Cattlemen’s Livestock Market of Galt where 1,833 head sold last week. Prices on benchmark steers ranged from $120-141.

Colorado: The Winter Livestock auction of La Junta held its seasonal feeder calf sale last week, selling almost 7,000 head of feeders. Steer calves under 700 lbs. and heifer calves under 600 lbs sold steady to $2 higher, and heavier steers sold down $2 and heifers sold up $2-3. Demand was called moderate to good. Benchmark steers were priced very different based on their attributes; two lots of yearlings brought $139-146 (averages in the low $140s), a lot of thin-fleshed yearlings averaged $154.50, and a lot of unweaned calves averaged $137.32.

Iowa: The Russell Livestock auction held its first sale in a few weeks, meaning there were no comparisons. Over 3,200 head of feeders sold and demand was called moderate. Number 1, 7-weight yearling steers ranged from $145-155.75.

Kansas: The Winter Livestock auction of Dodge City sold more feeders last week than the week before, and there were too few comparable sales for a market trend. A lower undertone was noted overall, and the best comparisons were on 6- and 7-weight heifers, up $1-2. Most of the benchmark steers offered were standard yearlings and averaged $151.22, while a small lot of “fleshy” yearlings averaged $134.

Missouri: Over 7,800 head of feeders sold last week at the Joplin Regional Stockyards. In general, all classes of feeders were called steady to $3 lower. Several lots of #1, 7-weight steers sold with prices divided by age and state; yearlings ranged from $141-154 while unweaned calves sold between $134.50-136.

Montana: Feeder sale numbers were pretty steady at 3,161 head the Miles City Livestock Commission. Prices were mostly lower however. Light steer calves were called $3-6 lower, midweights were steady to $3 lower, and other steers were too lightly tested for a market trend. Heifer calves under 600 lbs. were mixed up $4 to down $5. Yearling steers were too lightly tested for a market trend, however higher undertones were noted. Weaned calves with two rounds of shots in them were getting premiums of $8-10 over calves that only had one round of shots. Two lots of unweaned #1, 7-weight calves ranged from $137-147.50.

Nebraska: The Huss Livestock Market sold almost 5,300 head of feeders last week, up considerably from the week before. Light steer calves sold up $9, midweights were steady to up $3. Heifers were called steady to up $2 for all ages and sizes. Prices for #1, 7-weight steers, whether unweaned calves or yearlings, ranged from $143-155.

New Mexico: The Clovis Livestock Auction sold slightly fewer cattle last week compared to the week before. Prices were down considerably in some places, with light steer calves bringing $14-15 lower money. Midweight steers were mixed up and down $1 on limited comparable sales. Light heifers were down $2-4 and all others were called steady. Two respectably-sized lots of #1, 7-weight unweaned calves averaged in the low $120s, while eight head of yearlings averaged $130.

Oklahoma: The OKC West-El Reno sale sold almost 14,000 head of feeders last week, with the National Stockyards challenging that volume with slightly over 13,000 head of its own. The El Reno sale called their steers $1-3 lower and heifers were $2-4 lower. At the National Stockyards, yearling feeders of both sexes were called steady to $2 lower while steer calves were up $1-4 and heifer calves were unevenly steady. Benchmark steers at El Reno were few and far between, with only one lot selling at $149.32 average. At the National Stockyards, numerous #1, 7-weight steer lots sold, with most selling from $140-156 and a lot of unweaned calves bringing an average of $136.85.

South Dakota: Sales at the Hub City Livestock Auction were up almost 2,500 head last week compared to the week before. Where comparable, light steers were up $3-6 while 6- and 7-weights were down $1-7. Heifers were called $2-5 where comparable. Two large lots of #1, 7-weight yearling steers averaged in the mid- to upper-$140s.

Wyoming: The Torrington Livestock Auction sold just over 7,000 head of feeders last week. Five-weight steer calves were up $2-3 with all other steers being steady. Heifers were steady save for 4-weight calves, which were down $3-4. The one yearling lot of #1, 7-weight steers averaged $152, while the one unweaned lot averaged $142.53.

Near-term futures were mostly sideways last week. Minor gains and losses predominated both boards, though Thursday’s trade saw triple-digit losses in near-term feeder futures.

Week to week, the December live contract gained a net 23 cents with $119.33 on Thursday. The February contract gained a net 7 cents with $125.05. The November feeders lost a net 72 cents with $145.53 and the January feeders contract lost a net $1.68 with $142.60.

“CME cattle futures, with the exception of spot Dec. [live], are in correction mode, trading toward the bottom end of this trading range, now in its third week,” Fish observed. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor

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