Winter weather a factor for auctions this week

Wes Ishmael

October 26, 2019

Cold weather and continued wet conditions continued to slow offerings and demand.

“Demand for feedlot-ready calves was light to moderate as many locations in the Corn Belt are still wet,” explained the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) reporter on hand for Tuesday’s sale at Miles City Livestock Commission in Montana. “Additionally, many farmers are still tied up with harvest as late plantings have led to a later harvest than usual…The biggest price gaps between preconditioned and non-preconditioned calves existed in grass cattle as very few takers could be found for calves with only one round or no shots.”

Likewise, the AMS reporter at Thursday’s Mobridge Livestock Auction sale in South Dakota explained there were many cancellations with road and yard conditions too muddy to get trucks in and out.

“Calf preconditioning remains a huge factor in how these calves are received at auction,” said the Mobridge reporter. “Terrible weather and yard conditions, as well as tight margins, are making feeders reluctant to place calves at this time, and they are not willing to take a chance on calves that are more probable to get sick.”

Nationwide, yearling steers and heifers sold from $3 per cwt lower to $1 higher, according to AMS. Steer and heifer calves traded $1-$4 lower.

“Potential health risks have kept most buyers at bay for calves,” say AMS analysts. “However, preconditioned, long-time weaned calves did attract much more of the buyer’s attention, creating wide price spreads.”

Moreover, with harvest now in full swing, some farmer feeders are focusing on getting crops out rather than placing calves.

Despite mixed cash prices, Feeder Cattle futures closed an average of $2.16 higher week to week on Friday, regaining more than the previous week’s decline. Support included the steady to higher cash fed cattle price, increasing wholesale beef values and slightly softer week-to-week Corn futures.

The Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) expects the price for steer calves (600 pounds) sold from August through November to be 5.5% to 6% less than the same time a year earlier; about $9 per cwt less, based on AMS prices. That would be the lowest price levels since 2016.

Negotiated cash fed cattle trade remained undeveloped through Friday afternoon, based on USDA reports, except for the Southern Plains. Live sales there on Thursday were at $110 per cwt, which was $1 higher in Kansas and $2 higher in the Texas Panhandle.

“Several areas of the Northern Plains still have tightly-held negotiated cattle on show lists priced in the $115-$116 area, willing to trade on Saturday morning if needed, as the previous three weeks,” explained AMS analysts.

Choice boxed beef cutout value was $7.40 higher week to week on Friday at $225.44 per cwt. Select was $6.80 higher at $199.84. That’s $9.88 higher for Choice over the last two weeks; $11.16 higher for Select.

Listen to Wes Ishmael's Cattle Market Weekly Audio Report every Saturday morning on the BEEF magazine website. This is your report for Saturday, October 26, 2019.

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