Compared to last week, steers and heifers sold steady to 5.00 lower, with a few auctions quoting steady to 4.00 higher on their offering comprised of cattle that would be suitable for grazing this summer.  In this commentary the past couple of weeks there has been mention of the demand for the high quality grazing kind of cattle.  In the previous week, there were a couple stand out sales of the type of cattle we have been referring to.  Last Friday at Burwell Livestock Auction in Burwell, NE, a load plus of 560 lbs one owner steers sold at 220.00.  Last Saturday at Ericson Livestock Auction in Ericson, NE, near six loads of one iron steers weighing 557 to 564 lbs sold from 207.00-209.50 with a weighted average of 207.90. Replacement quality heifers are still in demand as well.  On Monday at Tri-State Livestock Auction in McCook, NE, a combination of three different packages of replacement quality heifers weighing from 731 to 740 lbs sold from 155.00 to 156.00 posting a weighted average of 155.33.  On Thursday at Valentine Livestock Auction in
Valentine, NE, a couple packages of heavy 6 weight heifers sold from 166.00 to 170.00 and posted a weighted average of 167.39.  Just eight short weeks ago, the heavy 6-weight steers in Valentine averaged 167.89.  That just goes to show you how demand for cattle has ramped up in a relatively short amount of time.  Although some areas have received precipitation to squelch drought fears in the near term, the Oklahoma-Texas Panhandles as well as southwest and south-central Kansas are still in severe to extreme drought.  With the windy and dry conditions in south-Central Kansas, authorities there have reported that about 40 square miles have burned; not nearly as devastating as the 1,000 square miles that was scorched in March 2017.  Let’s hope
that this spring is not a rerun of last year on that front.  Feedlot trade this week is mostly steady at 126.00 to 127.00 in the Southern and Northern Plains while dressed trade was also reported to be steady at 204.00.  Packer margins are very good and the incentive should be there to pick up the slaughter pace and procure fed cattle.  Beef demand has been excellent but remains a critical factor going forward as more market ready cattle become available for the April to June time period.  These large numbers are also coming at a time when the grilling season and beef demand are historically at its best.  However with the Nor’Easter that brought the Northeast to a standstill this week, the short term demand could add a bearish tone to the marketplace.  Cattle futures seem to indicate that downside potential is more evident than upside potential, even with bullish fundamentals at this time.  Feedlots keeping current, good domestic consumer beef demand, impressive January exports of 9 percent over a year ago and packer margins near triple digits can’t seem to get a psychological foothold at this time.   Auction volume this week included 57 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 44 percent heifers.
Source:  USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, MO