Compared to last week, steers and heifers were uneven; 3.00 lower to 4.00 higher. Many markets early to mid-week were on the higher side, while later in the week markets followed the CME cattle complex in a downward trend. Even though markets were lower this week demand was good at reporting auctions this week. Marketing of cattle had a delay of up to a couple weeks in areas that were affected by a couple “bomb cyclones” as auctions are readying for their summer schedules. With auctions sales going to a biweekly sales routine, farmer/feeders and order buyers chased cattle suited for summer turn out hoping to fill pastures with any weight of cattle that is in the flesh condition for summer turnout, even some light 700 lb cattle in the right flesh condition. Ranchers are hoping to put on gain cheaper on grass than putting them in a feedyard and get all their forage needs from a bunk. On Thursday at Valentine (Neb.) Livestock Auction, three loads weighing 700 to 725 lbs sold from 168.00 to 172.00. Packers procured inventory on Wednesday this week in the Southern Plains and Thursday in the Northern Plains. In the Southern Plains, live sales were steady with last week at 126.00, while dressed sales in Nebraska were 3.00 lower at 205.00. The CME Cattle complex has not seen a week like this in quite a while. April Live Cattle will move off the Board next week and June then becomes the front month. This week, June through December Live Cattle were 6.40 to 7.62 lower, while May through January Feeder Cattle contracts were 7.30 to 8.22 lower. Last week’s true hedges are making some people feel real good right now. Many analysts are referring to the slaughter rates of individual classes of cattle in determining where we are at in the cattle herd rebuilding cycle. In addition, watchers of carcass weights also consider the number of heifers in the fed cattle mix and how they can affect total tonnage. YTD cattle slaughter for the middle April totaled around 9.1 million head; one percent larger than last year and 0.6 percent more than the previous three-year average. Steer slaughter is 3.5 percent below a year ago and 3.6 percent under the previous three-year average. Fed heifer slaughter is 7.7 percent above a year ago and 5.7 percent larger than the three-year average. Dairy cow and beef cow slaughter is 5.1 percent and 2.5 percent larger than year ago respectively. Cold Storage Report for March was released on Monday with total red meat supplies in freezers down three percent from previous month and down two percent from last year. Total lbs of beef in freezers were at 450.7 million lbs, down five percent from previous month and down three percent from last year. Frozen pork supplies were at 610.1, down one percent from last month, and down slightly from last year. Total red meat production for the United States totaled 53.5 billion pounds in 2018, a record high which was three percent higher than the previous year. Boxed-beef values have been doing very well with higher values but are starting to find some resistance this week as packers have plenty of product to sell. For the week, the Choice cutout closed 0.51 lower at 233.14, while Select was 0.92 lower at 219.58. Cattle Slaughter under federal inspection estimated at 643K for the week, 2K more than last week and 15K more than a year ago. Auction volume this week included 53 percent weighing over 600 lbs and 44 percent heifers.
Source: USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division, St. Joseph, Mo.