Packers can be coy at times, fliting about the edges of the cash market as they dip their toes into those waters. At other times, they find themselves in a situation where they need to dive in head first and make a few waves.

The week ending Feb. 17 was one of those wave-making weeks.

Looking first at volume, the Five Area formula sales volume totaled 210,676 head, compared with about 198,675 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 127,306 head, compared with about 66,379 head the previous week, making it almost twice the previous week’s volume.

Most of the cash sales were on a 1-14 day delivery basis, but the national cash sales this week include over 6,300 head of 15-30 day delivery, compared with only about 600 head the previous week.  That is worth watching each week; it’s always important, and especially now as packers try to manage growing inventories.

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 596,000 head, compared with 576,000 head the same week last year. Continuing a trend we saw throughout 2017, the current year-to-date total is about 108,000 head higher than last year.

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 47,000 head, compared with about 44,000 head the previous week. The packers have about 194,000 head of forward contracts available for February and 182,000 head in March, then over 250,000 head already for April, which is the normal pattern.

Now looking at the prices, the weekly weighted average cash steer price for the Five Area region was $129.75 per cwt, compared with $126.15 the previous week, $3.60 higher. The Five Area weighted average cash dressed steer price $205.02, compared with $200.30 the previous week, $4.72 higher.

The Five Area average formula price was $200.79, compared with $201.22 the previous week, making it 43 cents lower.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending Feb. 3 was 888 pounds, 1 pound lower than the week before but 1 pound higher than the 887 pounds the same week last year. This is the time of the year when weights decline until sometime in May. 

The Choice-Select spread was $4.76 on Friday, compared with $3.78 the previous week and a $1.25 spread last year.