Robust packer demand pushed the cash fed cattle rally into the New Year. Cattle sold in the South at $124 per cwt., $2 higher. In the North live sales were $124 to $125, and dressed sales from $198 to $200 per cwt., $2 to $5 higher.
Over the past 10 weeks average cattle prices increased giving cattle feeders market leverage in a rally the likes of which have not been seen in many years. Fed cattle slaughter averaged 505,000 head per week during December, the largest December weekly slaughter since 2010.
Muddy feedlot pens are a concern in the North, especially in the Dakotas. Rising costs of gain are also becoming a factor as winter is just two weeks old.
Cattle slaughter for the week ended Jan. 3 was estimated at 546,000 head, 78,000 more than last week and 11,000 more than last year.
Choice beef cutout closed $208.49 per cwt., $0.47 lower than the previous Friday. Select closed at $205.39 per cwt., $0.82 higher than the previous week. The Choice-Select spread was $3.10. Worth noting is the Choice-Select spread was $21.78 the day after Thanksgiving.
Prices for feeder steers and heifers were not well tested, AMS reports, as most auctions were closed for the holidays. However, AMS reports those auctions that held sales saw “much stronger prices.”
“Most observers described the buyers’ moods as being ‘hungry’ and they are ready to procure cattle as the holidays seemed to drag out this year,” AMS said. “Yearlings and calves alike were in demand on this holiday shortened week.