We’re now into April, the month when the fed cattle market historically sees its highs for the year. However, the past few years have been historic, and not in the usual fashion. Feeders saw cash prices retreat $4 to $6 per cwt the week ending March 31. Is it possible we’ve already seen the highs in the fed cattle market for this year?
The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 204,069 head, compared with about 212,103 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 91,287 head, compared with about 120,137 head the previous week. These Five Area cash sales represented 90% of the total national sales.
Most of the cash sales are for 1-14 day delivery but the national cash sales this week include about 39,700 head for 15-30 day delivery. That continues a trend the past three weeks where more than 93,000 head sold with extra days.
The large out-front sales are an effort by cattle feeders to position themselves in the market. There is always a big push this time of the year to move cattle ahead of the big annual market declines. When I ran the St. Joseph stockyards, the market usually broke in May when we had big runs of calf feds in our auction.
The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 594,000 head, compared with 601,000 head the same week last year. The current year-to-date total is about 141,000 head higher than last year, even with lower numbers the last three weeks.
Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 41,000 head, compared with about 42,000 head the previous week. The packers have about 265,000 head of forward contracts for April along with very big 15 to 30-day cash sales for the month.
Now looking at the prices, the weekly weighted average cash steer price for the five-area region was $120.96 per cwt, compared with $125.90 the previous week, $4.94 lower. The weighted average cash dressed steer price for the Five Area region was $192.32, compared with $201.79 the previous week which was $9.47 lower.
The Five Area weighted average formula price was $202.79, compared with $203.32 the previous week, making it 53 cents lower.
The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending March 17 was 877 pounds, down 4 pounds from the week prior and higher than the 872 pounds the same week last year.
The Choice-Select spread jumped late week and was $12.35 on Friday, compared with $6.69 the previous week and a $10.12 spread last year.