Compared to last week, steers and heifers sold uneven; 2.00 lower to 2.00 higher. Good to very good demand for the larger strings of yearling steers and heifers coming off grass in the Northern Plains this week.  Herd health programs are becoming more of an issue earlier this year as temperature swings in the Midwest are ranging from the lows in the 40’s to the highs in the mid 80’s in a matter of a couple of days. The CME Cattle Complex posted a lower Monday close after last Friday’s bearish placement numbers.  However after digesting that most of the placements were in the lighter weight categories, order buyers were given orders similar to last week. Total auction receipts on this report were 10K larger than last week and 20K larger than a year ago.  With many auctions on two week schedules, larger and more frequent runs are still in the near future.  On Thursday at Billings Livestock Commission in Billings, Mont., a short load of 701 lb heifers sold at 159.50 and a half load of 756 lb heifers sold at 158.00.  Harvest is moving steadily along in some areas of the Midwest as many in the Eastern Corn Belt are just getting started.  In areas of the Northern Plains, corn and soybean harvest getting underway in the area but at times comes to a standstill due to moisture the area.  On Monday, corn harvest was reported at 16 percent complete; 5 percent larger than the previous five-year average. Nationwide, the drought monitor improved again this week with 51.36 percent not affected by drought.  It has been two and a half months since 50 percent or more has been reported for that data series.  For perspective, last years’ data plot was at 63.1 percent showing no drought effects.  There are still areas of reported drought, however they have decreased significantly in the last month.  On Monday the Cold Storage Report was released with total red meat supplies in freezers 4 percent higher than last month and 4 percent higher than last year.  Total lbs of beef in freezers were up 4 percent from last month at 503.5 million lbs and 6 percent higher than a year ago.  Frozen pork supplies were up 6 percent from last month at 582.6 million lbs and 1 percent higher than a year ago.  Pork bellies were down 14 percent from last month at 35 million lbs but 82 percent higher than a year ago.  Total chicken supplies came in at 927.6 million lbs 18.6 percent higher than a year ago. Negotiated cash fed cattle trade was moderate in Nebraska and the Western Cornbelt this week so far. Compared to last week, dressed purchases in both regions traded mostly 1.00 lower from 173.00-175.00, bulk at 174.00.  Live purchases in Nebraska and the Western Corn Belt traded most steady at 110.00 to 110.50.  Trade was reported in the Southern Plains at 111.00; steady with the previous week.  Last week’s large harvest of 657K, if realized, will be the second largest harvest since July 1 and has the packers well supplied.  Couple with this week’s 650K harvest, it would be the largest two week total since mid-June.  For the week, Choice cutout closed 0.92 lower at 203.88, while Select was 1.27 lower at 193.44.  On Wednesday this week, 188 loads of negotiated boxed beef was sold; the largest daily volume since December 8, 2017. Auction volume this week included 44 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 40 percent heifers.
Source: USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, Mo.