Compared to last week, steer and heifer calves sold steady to 5.00 higher and feeder steers and heifers sold steady to 5.00 lower.  Buyers were more reserved on feeders headed straight to the feedyard as the CME futures markets were volatile all week long, however, demand was good to very good on calves suitable for grazing.  In the North Central part of the country, market reporters noted that there were fewer farmer-feeders in the seats as pens have started to thaw out and get greasy leading to some cattle now starting to carry some mud on them.  Quality in the auctions continues to be attractive to buyers for the most part, however with some areas having a little ‘tag’ on the hide, the matting of cattle’s hair coats tend to take some of the shine off the luster.  Fewer thin fleshed cattle in the offering this week as temperatures have been conducive to feeders showing the extra flesh they have on them.  Thursday was a very good day for feeder steer prices this week as three  auctions listed sold light 8-weight steers for a nice figure considering the
bearishness in the marketplace this week.  At Napoleon Livestock Auction in Napoleon, ND a package of 834 lb fancy steers sold for 154.00.  At Ogallala Livestock in Ogallala, NE a load of 824 lb steers sold at 152.00 while a half-load of steers weighing 813 lbs at Denison Livestock in Denison, IA also sold at 152.00.  Fewer heifers tagged as replacements this week in the country, however there were still a few around and they continue to sell well above their steer mates.  On Tuesday, at Philip Livestock in Philip, SD a half-load of 874 lb replacement heifers sold at $1400 per head or 160.18/cwt.  On Wednesday at Hub City Livestock in Aberdeen, SD another half-load of replacement heifers weighing 816 lbs sold at $1300.00 per head or 159.31/cwt.  Boxed beef continues on its upward trend which analysts had predicted the Choice to top somewhere around 225.00.  Even though we have not gotten to that level, lower cash fed cattle prices are expanding packer margins as boxed-beef values have continued higher which continues to keep packers in very good shape.  With the higher boxed-beef values higher and with Easter fast approaching, beef could find some stiff competition from the retail section with cheaper pork and poultry prices.  Feedyards will need to continue to stay current to keep a significant price drop at bay which typically happens when the market starts staring at the June being the front contract month.  For the week, Choice boxed beef closed 4.14 higher at 222.52, while the Select cutout closed 1.82 higher at 214.64.  Fed cattle moved on Wednesday this week when the CME April Live Cattle contract was quoted at 123.00 or below. Cash cattle traded 2.00 lower in the Southern Plains at 126.00 while the Northern Plains dressed trade was reported steady to 1.00 lower at mostly 204.00.  Auction volume this week included 63 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 44 percent heifers.
Source:  USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, MO