Sort & Cull

Now or Never?

John Harrington
By  John Harrington , DTN Livestock Analyst

The traditional battle cry of "NOW OR NEVER" has always been long on rhetoric and short on predictive value, especially when it comes to market talk.

On the front end, "now" can mean anything from "immediately" to "just around the corner" to "sooner rather than later." Take it from a humble prognosticator who's wiped more egg from his face over the years than the entire U.S. Weather Bureau, it pays to be flexible.

Conversely, "never" is a long, long time. All too often, the unimaginable turns out just inches beyond what's considered to be the logical reach of the immediate moment.

Yet despite these well-mapped pitfalls, I feel my arm involuntarily gesturing in the direction of the cattle market's deep center: the next pitch (or maybe the one after that) is going out.

It's the middle of April and the feedlot trade's "sweet spot" seems dangerously close at hand. This near-perfect window is typically comprised of mounting seasonal beef demand and the recognition of the feeding year's smallest showlists.

The choice box has surged nearly $10 higher this week. Furthermore, the voracious appetite of Memorial Day in late May and the new grilling season at large should increasingly beckon over the next two to four weeks.

As far as the country offering of ready cattle is concerned, feedlot shelves are about as bare as they can get. Besides the logic of limited placement in late 2015, feedlot managers are starting to scrape the generational barrel, that narrow bridge stretching between the last of old-crop cattle and the first substantial wave of fed calves.

Right or wrong, it strikes me as an intoxicating one-two punch of price potential.

Some believe the fed market's seasonal high has already come and gone, notched in mid-March at $139.18. Frankly, I don't know if bulls have either the ammo or stones to rock the cash trade to a new high this spring. But I'm pretty sure feet are now planted on a narrow strip of critical proving ground.

Put up or shut up. Go big or go home. Now or never.

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