Sort & Cull

Cattle Market Finds a Spark of Optimism

ShayLe Stewart
By  ShayLe Stewart , DTN Livestock Analyst
With the news of a new packing plant expecting to break ground this fall and slightly higher dressed cattle prices last week -- the market may be finally ready to soak up a spring rally. (DTN file photo by Jim Patrico)

Doesn't the old saying go something like, "good things come to those who wait!?" Well, feedlots have done more than their fair share of waiting, but thankfully last week dressed cattle prices finally saw some momentum.

Last week, cash cattle started trading as early as Tuesday afternoon, but it wasn't until Wednesday and Thursday that the market saw the $1 to $2 advancement. Live cattle in the Southern Plains sold for $112 to $115, which was considered fully steady with the previous week, and in the Northern Plains dressed cattle sold for $179 to $185 but mostly for $180 to $182 which is $1 to $2 higher.

I really want to highlight the success that the North last week through their patient marketing. It's hard to wait until late in the week to market fat cattle because packers can be fickle about their needs, and carrying cattle over one week to the next can be quite costly with today's cost of gains being as lofty as they are.

But seeing the market through the end of the week is vital as there's lost opportunity when the week's business is rushed before Wednesday even rolls around. The rest of the week isn't even given a chance to trade higher when trade begins early in the week. If packers are pressing on the market as early as Tuesday for cattle, they surely will still need cattle come Thursday/Friday and be even more aggressive in their bids if feedlots can resist the urge to accept their bids earlier in the week.

Last week, there were right at 80,719 head of cattle sold, of which 75% (60,980 head) sold for delivery in the upcoming two weeks while the remaining 25% (19,739 head) sold for delivery in the following 15 to 30 days.

Looking to the week ahead, I'm optimistic that this week's trade could be fruitful again as feedlots are empowered. Cash cattle prices were slightly higher last week, but there was also the exciting announcement that a new packing plant plans to break ground this upcoming fall in North Platte, Nebraska, and will process around 400,000 head per year by 2023; it will be called "Sustainable Beef." The simple announcement that the industry could expect more shackle space in the future and that boxed beef prices are starting to feel the need to trade higher as spring arrives translates into the market could be ready to trade higher and take ahold of a spring rally.

If you want to hear more about last week's cattle market, tune into this week's Cattle Market News Update by clicking the link below or by going to the DTN/Progressive Farmer Facebook page:…

ShayLe Stewart can be reached at


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