Even though Jan. 1 marks the start of the New Year, the cattle market takes more time to settle into the new calendar year before it actively begins to trade. It's quite common to see both the live and feeder cattle markets trade sluggishly through the first few weeks of January before they really pick up momentum. And it was just last week that we finally began to see the tide turn and that type of momentum creep back into the markets.
Last week was dynamic for both the live cattle and feeder cattle contracts as interest and demand were seen throughout both the futures complex and cash markets. Throughout last week, February live cattle jumped $4.08, April live cattle jumped $4.30, March feeder cattle ran $7.75 higher and April feeders leaped $8.13. The fed cash cattle market jumped $2 in the Southern Plains and $3 in the Northern Plains, and the cash cattle market saw a decent movement of 83,353 head traded. The feeder cattle market was also well tested: across the nation 353,200 head of feeder cattle and calves traded in sale barns and the CME Feeder Cattle Index gained $3.55 throughout the week to end at $232.66.
After a couple of miserable wet and cold January storms, the cattle market was finally ready to crack open the floodgates and welcome in 2024. And as we look to the week ahead, I'm especially excited to see how the market will react to Wednesday's Cattle Inventory report. Last year, the January cattle report shared the U.S. possessed the fewest beef cows it ever had on record. Given how aggressively beef cows were liquidated and slaughtered this past year, Wednesday's report is expected to showcase even fewer beef cows.
I encourage you to tune in to our comments on Wednesday regarding the report and to be ready for the cattle market to grab a faster gear heading into February.
ShayLe Stewart can be reached at ShayLe.Stewart@dtn.com
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