Bred heifer prices were the notable exception to lower female markets in December. In a light test at auction, bred heifers posted $13 per head gains over November averages and finished 2017 about $55 per head lower than 2016.
Female prices were supported through most of the fall sale season by a fed and feeder cattle market that exceeded expectations. Analysts, however, caution that modest expansion will continue, adding more cows and more feeder cattle to supplies over the next 18 months to two years.
Still, female prices saw modest gains across the nation in October and November, with December prices notably weaker on all classes except the bred heifers. However, both the young-to-middle aged bred cows and the aged bred cows saw December 2017 average prices higher than those of 2016.
Open heiferettes saw a modest $2 per cwt gain in December on a light test. Young and middle-aged open females sold $4 per cwt lower in December and finished 2017 $4 per cwt lower than December 2016. The aged, open cows sold $10 per cwt lower in December and about $3 per cwt lower than December 2016.
Prices for cow-calf pairs saw the most pressure during December. Cows with small calves sold $104 per pair less last month than during November, and $124 per pair lower than December 2016. Cows with large calves lost $18 per pair, but the December average was $17 per pair higher than December 2016. Aged cows with calves declined $7 per pair.
Slaughter cow prices traded $3 to $6 per cwt lower during December. Utility and commercial cows sold at $55.34 per cwt, down $3.33 per cwt. Canner and cutter cows traded lower at $48.86, a decline of $5.69 per cwt.