While most folks were excited to close their computers and slip out of the office to dye Easter eggs and indulge themselves in the holiday's finest cooking, the cattle market quietly crept higher and performed exceptionally well amid the holiday chaos.
Throughout last week, April live cattle gained $2.85, June live cattle gained $2.60, April feeder cattle jumped $1.65 and May feeder cattle gained $2.40. But what deserved the most attention and praise out of last week's cattle trade was the intense cash cattle rally that feedlots scrapped for. Throughout the week, Northern dressed cattle sold anywhere from $222 to $231, but mostly at $225 to $226, which is $2.00 to $3.00 higher than the previous week's weighted average. Southern live cattle traded anywhere from $138 to $140, but mostly at $139, which is $1.00 higher.
Heading into this week's trade, cattle enthusiasts are hopeful the market can once again push prices higher during the thin window of opportunity the market has. Supplies of calf-fed fats haven't begun to work their way into the market yet, but toward the middle of May they will be here, and packers won't have to work nearly as hard to find the cattle they need for their books. So, from now until that time, it's imperative that feedlots work with one another and move the market as high as they possibly can.
Thankfully, packers want to run aggressive chain speeds ahead of high summer demand. With last week a holiday for both Good Friday and Easter, it was impressive that packers still processed 634,000 head. This week's slaughter is anticipated to be aggressive as well, which will help feedlots shore-up showlists.
Keeping the ball rolling, the cattle market has big legislative weeks ahead of it. Next week there will be hearings in both the Senate and the House of Representatives for the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act. Packers have been asked to come and explain to the House why, during a time when ranchers and feedlots are seeing their thinnest returns and some are leaving the business altogether, are they (the packers) seeing record profits? You and I know why, but it will be interesting to see the case they plea in front of everyone. The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, in my opinion, is our only hope at saving the cash cattle market from a similar outcome to the chicken and hog industries. If you have time, I highly suggest tuning in and listening to both sessions.
ShayLe Stewart can be reached at ShayLe.Stewart@dtn.com
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