Compared to last week, steers and heifers sold steady to 5.00 higher.  Buyers continue to pay up for cattle suitable for summer grazing as they anticipate the supply of those calves get more difficult to find the farther in the new year they get.  Demand was quoted as good to very good at most auctions this week as long strings and high quality cattle were on consignments sheets.  Last Friday in Fort Pierre, SD a load of 701 lb steers with all the bells and whistles sold at 180.00 and six loads of replacement quality heifers weighing from 772 to 792 lbs sold from 154.00 to 158.50 for a weighted average of 156.69.  On Monday at Tri-State Livestock Auction in McCook, NE a string of six loads of 908 lb steers sold at 147.00.  Buyers are betting on the come as the drought picture in many states continues to intensify.  Even though rainfall totaled from 2 to 6 inches from eastern Texas to Tennessee, the
west Texas area is listed in extreme drought conditions again as Amarillo has now passed the 4 month mark of not receiving any measurable amount of precipitation. Nebraska seems to be in pretty good shape moisture wise as some market reports out there have made reference to some ‘tag’ evident on consignments at auctions.  Colors other than white touch every county in Kansas and Missouri on the drought monitor map which can be viewed at: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap.aspx.  The CME Cattle complex regained the losses from last week as the front five months of Live contracts were 2.62 to 4.15 higher when compared to last Friday.  Likewise for the Feeder Cattle contracts as gains of 3.13 to 4.80 were reported for the week.  Feedlot trade was sluggish to develop last week as most sales occurred after reporting agencies closed up shop.  However, today packers did not want to take a chance of feedyards not selling as analysts were guessing that their inventory numbers were probably getting a little short with the last couple weeks of February upon them.  On Wednesday the Tama Livestock Auction in IA, top sales of steers and heifers sold above 132.00; making ranchers wonder if the packers are going to chase the feedlot trade or try to keep the price advance to a minimum.  Right around the time the CME closed for the week, packers blinked and paid up.  Compared to last week, negotiated live sales of slaughter steers and heifers sold 4.00 higher at 130.00 while dressed sales were 5.00 higher at 205.00.  Breaking through the 130.00 barrier is a big psychological gain as that price level is the highest since the middle of June 2017.  Auction volume this week included 66 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 42 percent heifers.
Source:  USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, MO