It was a fitting end to a year full of surprises in the fed cattle market. More cattle in the market pipeline, by a significant amount, only seemed to feed the growing demand for quality beef, both here and abroad.

Question is: Will the New Year’s Eve fireworks signal a continued bull run in fed cattle prices in 2018? Time will tell. But for the moment, cattle feeders are enjoying a higher market as they welcome the New Year.

The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 190,766 head for the week ending Dec. 30, compared with about 200,497 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 66,480 head, compared with about 89,618 head the previous week.   

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 502,000 head, compared with 515,000 head the same week last year, 13,000 head below last year. However, the year-to-date total comes in at about 1.6 million head higher than last year. 

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 31,000 head, compared with about 42,000 head the previous week. The packers have about 227,000 head of forward contracts available for January and 191,000 head in February.

Now looking at the prices, the Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price was $122.84 per cwt, compared with $119.97 the previous week, A jump of $2.87 higher. The weighted average cash dressed steer price for the Five Area region was $194.50, compared with $190.32 the previous week, $4.18 higher.

The Five Area average formula price was $191.38, compared with $190.17 the previous week, making it $1.21 higher. The Five Area region includes the major feeding areaa from Texas up through Nebraska along with Colorado over through Iowa.   

The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending Dec. 16 was 902 pounds, which was 2 pounds lower than the 908 pounds logged the same week last year.

The Choice-Select spread was $9.92 on Friday, compared with $11.68 the previous week and $10.49 spread last year. This spread always drops this time of the year because of lower Choice steak sales and increasing roast-type items which are less dependent on the Choice grade.