Compared to last week, steers and heifers sold steady to 4.00 higher.  Buyers bid readily from start to finish nationwide for the heavy supply of mostly weaned calves and feeder cattle on offer this week.  At a few auctions in the Northern Plains, demand was noticeable on top quality replacement heifers slated to go back to the breeding pen.  At the Sioux Falls Regional Livestock Auction on Monday, a part load of 709 lb heifers sold at 156.00.  On Wednesday at Huss-Platte Valley Livestock Auction in Kearney, NE a package 612 lb heifers sold at 200.00 and a short load of 812 lb heifers sold at 156.00.  Good feeding steers were also in high demand in Valentine, NE on Thursday as a load of red white faced steers weighing 731 lbs sold
at 171.75.  Cattle herd expansion continued in 2017, according to USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service’s 2018 Cattle Inventory Report, although at a much slower pace than 2016.  The 2018 cattle herd of 94.4 million head is the largest reported total in nine years.  The report shows inventories of beef cows and heifers calved were up 2 percent at 31.7 million head as of Jan. 1, 2018. Replacement beef heifer inventories as of Jan. 1, were down 4 percent at 6.13 million head, suggesting producers are scaling back intentions to continue growing the herd into 2018.  The 2017 calf crop in the U.S. was estimated at 35.8 million head, up 2 percent from last year’s calf crop. Calves born during the first half of 2017 were estimated at 26.0 million head, up 2 percent from the first half of 2016. Calves born during the second half of 2017 were estimated at 9.81 million head, 27 percent of the total 2017 calf crop.  With the recent drought conditions in the Southern Plains, cattle have been moving off wheat and winter pastures at a pretty good clip; enough so, that the 1.5 million head listed as grazing on small grain pasture is the lowest total since January 2013, when the severe drought in fall of 2012 was realized.  The January 1 Cattle On Feed Report has now been reported over 11 million head for three consecutive months, inferring that cattle numbers are getting back to 2012 levels.  Compared to last Friday, CME cattle complex saw the Live Cattle Contracts 1.25 to 2.30 higher while the Feeder Cattle contracts were 3.45 to 4.60 higher. Solid footing in the futures have boded well for the cattle industry with cash fed cattle trading 1.00 lower at mostly 126.00 live and steady at 200.00 dressed this week. Restaurant Performance Index released this week posted a solid gain in December as stronger same store sales and customer traffic levels drove the RPI to 102.9 for the month of December.  Auction volume this week included 62 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 40 percent heifers.
Source:  USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, MO