Compared to last week, steers and heifers sold steady to 5.00 higher, with instances of market reporters quoting some weight categories up to 10.00 higher. Feeder cattle auction receipts were diminished this week, however with one more full week left of auctions being open, Year-to-Date auction receipts on this report are the largest since 2011. Producers time to finish up their marketing needs for the year are waning as many auctions take off for two full weeks around the holidays. Order buyers had an easier time of finding orders this week as the mud has started to firm up in areas that have had very muddy pens since the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Time is of the essence as feedyards and backgrounders will soon be reluctant to receive incoming cattle during the holidays; hoping the cowboys can take a break from doctoring calves around the Christmas and New Years. The Feeder Cattle futures has found some footing this week after trading sideways to mostly lower for the past nine weeks. Cash cattle seem to be pulling the feeder market higher as 119.00 was paid in the Southern Plains last week. This week, cash fed cattle trading occurred on Friday mid-day with Southern Plains called steady at 119.00. Early dressed sales in Nebraska sold 1.00 higher at 188.00. From the summer through now, packers have had a great run with margins running in the positive triple digits per head. Packers have a vested interest in moving through the pipeline every animal they can with positive margins and the way the holidays fall at the end of the year. With the Christmas and New Year’s holidays on a Tuesday, tempered harvest schedules are expected to almost come to a screeching halt. If realized, last week’s 667K head slaughter would be the second largest weekly cattle harvest since January 2012. U.S. Beef exports have been boisterous this year. January through October Year-to-Date beef exports were reported at 1.13 million metric tonnes, nine percent higher than a year ago. The value of that product was reported at $6.92 billion, 17 percent above a year ago as demand for U.S. product continues to improve as the year goes on. For the week, the Choice cutout closed 3.33 lower at 210.96, while Select was 2.64 higher at 203.14. The Choice-Select spread narrowed on Friday to 7.82 after last week’s spread was reported at 13.79. Auction volume this week included 46 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 41 percent heifers.
Source: USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, Mo.