Fed Cattle Recap| Cash market reclaims some of the lost high ground

After sliding for several weeks, the cash market for fed cattle clawed back $3 to as much as $5.

It’s been an up and down spring for cash fed cattle sales. Many analysts predicted the cash market had hit its high in February and March, earlier than what typically occurs normally, when the highs come in April. But the last few years have been everything except typical and normal in the fed cattle market.

For the week ending April 14, the feedlot cattle trades started the week out at $117 to $118 per cwt early in the week, then ended at $119 to $122 in some areas. That’s still a good bit south of the highs set in late February-early March, but for the moment anyway, it’s headed in the right direction.      

Looking first at volumes, the Five Area formula sales volume totaled 206,125 head, compared with about 215,786 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was  80,556 head, compared with about 77,497 head the previous week.

Why are Five Area data important? The Five Area region includes the major feeding regions of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa-Minnesota. These feeding areas normally produce at least 80% of the total national fed cattle sales each week. 

Most of the cash sales in that area are 1-14 day delivery. But following the recent trend, the national cash sales this week include about 21,200 head of 15-30 day delivery. Those cattle join quite a few head the previous four weeks that have been sold with extra days.  

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 605,000 head, compared with 589,000 head the same week last year. The current year-to-date total cattle harvest is about 194,000 head higher than last year. 

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 56,000 head, compared with about 46,000 head the previous week. The packers have about 265,000 head of forward contracts for April along with very big 15-30 day cash sales for this month. 

Now looking at the prices, the weekly weighted average cash steer price for the Five Area region was $119.49 per cwt, compared with $116.73 the previous week, which was $2.76 higher for the week. The Five Area weighted average cash dressed steer price was $189.97, compared with $187.74 the previous week, which was $2.23 higher after dropping $14 the previous two weeks.

The Five Area weighted average formula price was $192.52 per cwt, compared with $198.13 the previous week, making it $5.61 lower. That’s typical for formula pricing, which lags the cash market by a week.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending March 31 was 872 pounds, 6 pounds lower than last week but 10 pounds higher than the 862 pounds recorded the same week last year.

The Choice-Select spread was $12.70 on Friday, compared with $8.71 the previous week and a $12.60 spread last year. This is the time of year when Choice steak sales increase for grilling, which starts to widen the spread.

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