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Cattle futures up with direct trade slow to develop

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live and feeder cattle were modestly higher, closing before the start of the week’s widespread direct business. February live was up $.52 at $160.27 and April was $.30 higher at $164.12. March feeders were $.17 higher at $186.10 and April was up $.55 at $190.62.

Light direct cash cattle business was reported Friday, limited to the north and the Western Corn Belt. Dressed sales were at $250, up $2 from the previous week’s weighted average in Nebraska, with live sales at $159 to $160. That followed up very light trade in the north Thursday at $154 live and $248 dressed. There was no reported business in the south with asking prices at $158 to $160 live. Many of the major feedlot areas saw another blast of very cold temperatures to end the week and high feed costs remain a continued concern for the cattle industry.

Boxed beef closed lower with moderate movement. Choice was down $.36 at $264.74 and Select beef was $2.05 lower at $251.61 for a spread of $13.13. The estimated cattle slaughter of 122,000 head was down 2,000 on the week, but up 8,000 on the year.

At the Herreid Livestock Market feeder cattle sale in South Dakota, there were too few cattle for an accurate comparison from the last test, but there was a higher undertone for heifers weighing 600 to 700 pounds. The USDA says trade was active and demand was good to very good for the light offering, which featured a handful of loads and packages, with most of the cattle home raised. Quality ranged from plain to attractive with flesh mostly moderate to moderate plus. 72% of the run were heifers and 85% of the total offering weighed more than 600 pounds. Medium and Large 1 feeder steers averaging 712 pounds ranged from $179 to $188.25 and 54 head averaging 834 pounds sold at $182.75. Medium and Large 1 feeder heifers weighing 600 to 700 pounds were reported at $173 to $193.50 and 700-to-800-pound heifers brought $170.50 to $173.75.

In the Rock Valley Hay Auction in Iowa, compared to the previous week, prices were steady to $4 higher. Medium squares of supreme alfalfa sold at $245 to $247.50 with large rounds at $242.50 to $247.50, with medium squares of premium/supreme alfalfa at $220 to $220.50 and premium large rounds at $202.50 to $215. Large rounds of premium grass brought $222.50 to $255 with large rounds of good to premium at $197.50 to $212.50 and large rounds of good quality at $172.50 to $190.

For the week in Nebraska, round bales of alfalfa were fully steady and large squares were steady to $10 higher, while round bales of prairie hay were steady to $15 higher. Alfalfa pellets were steady to $10 higher with ground and delivered products unchanged. The USDA says demand was very good with many cattle producers looking for large quantities of baled forage. There are reports of hay being brought in from states to the north as reserve supplies dwindle and summer grass remains months away. In central Nebraska, large squares of supreme quality alfalfa were reported at $290 with large rounds of good at $225. Large squares of orchard grass sold at $250 with large rounds of FOB farm and ranch good quality prairie and meadow grass at $210 to $225 and large rounds of Sudan grass at $175. In eastern Nebraska, large rounds of good quality alfalfa were reported at $205 with large squares at $200. In the Platte Valley, large rounds of corn stalks sold at $100. In the west, good quality large squares of alfalfa ranged from $275 to $285.

Lean hog futures were mixed Friday on end of the week consolidation activity after the strength Thursday. February was $.32 lower at $75.02 and April was $.47 higher at $86.47.

Cash hogs were steady to lower with moderate closing negotiated numbers. After a few days of mostly higher activity, it looks like many buyers had the needed near-term numbers in hand, allowing them to either hold bids or cut back on spending, at least for the time being. Inconsistent wholesale business and concerns about sustained pork demand continue to hang over the market.

National direct barrows and gilts closed $.21 lower with a base price range of $65 to $77 for a weighted average of $72.65, with Iowa/Southern Minnesota down $1.94 at $73.10 and the Western Corn Belt $1.74 lower at $73.09. The Eastern Corn Belt had no recent comparison with a weighted average of $72.51. Butcher hogs at the Midwest cash markets were steady at $60 in Dorchester, Wisconsin and $66 in Garnavillo, Iowa. Illinois direct sows were steady at $30 to $42 on moderate demand and offerings. Barrows and gilts were steady at $54 to $64, also with moderate demand for moderate offerings. Boars ranged from $10 to $20.

Pork closed down $2.41 at $79.09. Loins, picnics, ribs, hams, and bellies were weak to sharply lower, including a $11.08 drop in the belly primal. Butts were firm. The estimated hog slaughter of 484,000 head was down 3,000 on the week, but up 59,000 on the year.

The USDA says early weaned pigs were $1 lower on the week while feeder pigs dropped $17 with good demand for uneven offerings. On the cash basis, early weaned pigs ranged from $50 to $75 for a weighted average of $66.85 and the formula range was $49.46 to $72.05 for an average of $56.07, putting the weighted average for all early weaned pigs at $61.20. The cash basis for feeder pigs ranged from $53 to $91 for a weighted average of $79.22.

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