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Feeder Futures Reach Contract HighsFeeder Futures Reach Contract Highs

Calves and feeder cattle continued to trade higher, driven by eroding corn prices and tighter cattle supplies.

Wes Ishmael

October 12, 2013

4 Min Read
Feeder Futures Reach Contract Highs

Declining corn prices and tight cattle supplies continued fueling calf and feeder markets this week, in spite of the continued lack of market data spawned by the government shutdown (see “Market Data Void Grows”).

“Thursday morning, traders renewed focus on extreme tightness in feeder cattle supplies and boosted Feeder Cattle futures to all-time highs across all traded contracts,” says John Otte, Penton market analyst. Feeder futures moved an average of $1 higher again Friday after gaining an average $1.34 Thursday. Feeder Cattle futures closed an average of $2.72 higher week-to-week.

Unfortunately, one reason for snugger cattle supplies is the devastating blizzard in South Dakota last weekend where early reports estimate that as many as 75,000 head of cattle perished.

Based on a sampling of auction markets (see end of this article), calves and feeders sold steady to mostly higher.

Corn futures moved an average of 9¢ lower week-to-week with continued reports of yields topping expectations.

In lieu of the closely watched October World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates, which were mothballed by the government shutdown, the trade was left to ponder data from private analysts.

In this week’s In the Cattle Markets, John D. Anderson, American Farm Bureau Federation deputy chief economist, shared average estimates compiled by Thompson-Reuters.

“On balance, corn production is reduced slightly (about 40 million bu.) from last month (13.802 billion bu. vs. USDA’s Sept. 30 estimate of 13.843 billion bu.), while soybean production is about even with last month's estimate (3.156 billion bu. vs. the September. estimate of 3.149 billion bu.),” Anderson says. “Expectations for ending stocks on both crops are modestly higher than last month's USDA figure, reflecting the latest stocks data – released just before the shutdown on Sept. 30.”

Although lower cattle feed costs are welcome, Otte cautions, “…record-high feeder cattle futures clearly show feedlots will have to carefully figure the costs and fine tune their feeding operations to attempt to create a margin.”

Languishing fed cattle prices are another reason for the sharp pencil.

Through Thursday, most reports had packers offering bids on par with the previous week at $123/cwt. or so on a live basis and $2-$3 lower than the previous week. Feedlots, though, were asking for $128-$129. Friday afternoon, the Texas Cattle Feeder Association reported its members’ fed cattle sales at $128/cwt. for steers and heifers, $2 higher than the previous week.

Spot Oct. Live Cattle futures ended the week at  $128.80 and Live Cattle futures were mixed week-to-week.

“Despite tight feeder cattle supplies, relatively lackluster fed cattle prices have some traders thinking record-high feeder cattle cannot persist,” Otte says. “They think the next move in feeders will be lower.”

Cattle markets this week also benefited from sharply higher outside markets at the end of the week on news that lawmakers may be getting closer to agreeing to terms for raising the nation’s debt limit, and maybe even how to restart government operations. 

Sampling of Auction Sales


  • Feeder steers and heifers sold $2-$3 higher at Oklahoma National Stockyards. Steer and heifer calves sold $6-$8 higher, both on a good test (auction-reported).

  • Steers weighing less than 600 lbs. sold steady to $2 lower at Joplin Regional Stockyards in Missouri. Steer calves weighing more than 600 lbs. traded $2-$6 higher. Heifer calves weighing less than 550 lbs. sold $3-$6 lower; steady to $2 higher at heavier weights (state-reported).

  • Steers sold mixed and heifers traded $3-$10 higher at Southeast Mississippi Livestock in Hattiesburg, MS (auction-reported).

  • Steers and feeder bulls sold steady to $6 higher at Mid-South Livestock Auction in Unionville, TN. There were instances of $8 higher. Heifers sold steady to $4 higher with instances of $7 higher (state-reported).


  • Steers weighing less than 600 lbs. sold steady at Ozarks Regional Stockyards in Missouri. Steer calves weighing more than 600 lbs. traded $8-$10 higher. Heifer calves weighing less than 700 lbs. sold steady, up to $10 higher at heavier weights (state-reported).

  • Lightweight steers sold mostly steady at Winter Livestock in La Junta, CO. Heavy steer calves sold steady. Heavy heifer calves were steady (auction-reported).

  • Steers and feeder bulls sold steady to $4 lower at Athens Cattle Auction in Tennessee. Feeder heifers traded steady to $4 lower (state-reported).

  • Steer and heifer calves sold steady at Blue Grass Stockyards in Lexington, KY. Yearling steers and heifers traded firm (state-reported).


  • Calves sold fully steady at St. Joseph Stockyard in Missouri. Heifers weighing 700-800 lbs. (comparable quality) sold $2-$3 higher than two weeks earlier (state-reported).

  • Yearlings and calves sold steady to strong at Hub City Livestock Auction in Aberdeen, SD (auction-reported).


  • Stocker and feeder cattle sold steady at Tulia Livestock Auction in Texas on Thursday (auction-reported).


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