March 20 is the magical day that winter gives way to spring—at least on the calendar. Whether or not that really happens remains to be seen, but warmer weather is just around the corner.
Eventually, muddy pens in the Northern Plains and Midwest will dry out and spring and summer market fundamentals will likely come into play. In the meantime, the push and pull of the cash market continues—packers have plenty of cattle lined up, but wet, sloppy winter weather is hammering live and carcass weights, cutting the tonnage and encouraging packers to keep processing cattle.
Looking first at volume, the Five Area formula sales volume totaled 233,285 head, compared with about 226,602 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 65,331 head, compared with 104,645 head the previous week.
Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 40,000 head for the week ending March 9 and packers have 221,000 head lined up for March along with 303,000 head for April. March and April numbers now are 56,000 and 60,000 head higher than last year.
National cash sales this week included 25,000 head of 15- to 30-day delivery and about 15,000 head the previous week.
Now looking at prices, the Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price for week ending March 9 was $128.15 per cwt, compared with $128.22 the previous week, which was only 7 cents lower for the week, so very close to steady.
The weighted average cash dressed steer price for the Five Area region was $205.07 per cwt, compared with $205.07 the previous week, exactly the same.
The Five Area weighted average formula price was $203.66 per cwt, compared with $200.92 the previous week, making it $2.74 higher.
The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 603,000 head and that compares with 599,000 head the same week last year.
The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending Feb. 23 was 874 pounds, which was down 5 pounds from the previous week and down 9 pounds from the same week last year. Carcass weights are 11 pounds lower in just two weeks and well below last year now.
The Choice-Select spread was $7.35 on Friday, compared with $4.50 the previous week and a $6.88 spread last year.