Cattle Prices Uneven, COF Report AWOL

Feeders steers and heifers sold both sides of steady, and the Cattle on Feed report went missing due to the government shutdown.
Feeders steers and heifers sold both sides of steady, and the Cattle on Feed report went missing due to the government shutdown.
(Wyatt Bechtel)

News of  the reopening (at least temporarily) of the U.S. government came too late to save this week’s Cattle on Feed report scheduled for Friday. It’s unknown if the reopening of USDA offices will come in time to deliver the annual Cattle Inventory report scheduled for next Thursday, Jan. 31, but it appears likely to be delayed.

Fed cattle traded on both sides of steady for the week, though packer interest was moderate at best. A light trade in Iowa was reported at $125, but most regions reported $123, and some at $122. Last week’s price was $124. Cattle sold on a dressed basis at $197. Packers were content to reduce their kills by at least 10,000 head this week.

Packer margins have declined in recent weeks, down from historically high levels, but remain above traditional norms. Margins are likely to improve this week as the beef cutout price is $5 per cwt. higher. Choice boxed beef closed Friday at $217.01, up from $213.15 last Friday. Select beef cutout sold at $212.03, up from $209.45 last week. The choice-Select spread was $4.98.

Feeder steers and heifers were called uneven this week, with early sales steady to $5 lower and mid- to late-week sales steady to $5 higher. AMS reporters said buyer interest was lower early-week due to winter weather.

“Between mud, snow, ice, or a mixture of all the above, transporting cattle has proven to be difficult and sales either cancelled or continued on with lighter receipts,” AMS said. “Some feedyards are content to wait for pens to harden and dry up a bit before receiving more cattle. “

Larger cattle runs are expected next week unless harsh winter weather again presents transportation problems.

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