Round and round she goes and where she stops, nobody knows. Cattle feeders have always played a high-stakes game and this fall’s fed cattle market is no different. However, it has stayed better for longer than anyone expected, much to the delight of everyone in the cattle complex.

The week ending Dec. 2 was no different, with the cash market for fed cattle rebounding several dollars in some areas on higher volumes in both the formula and cash markets.

The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 198,397 head, compared with about 170,245 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 92,304 head, compared with about 73,369 head the previous week. The Five Area region includes the major feeding area from Texas up through Nebraska along with Colorado and Iowa. 

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 645,000 head, compared with 616,000 head the same week last year, which was 29,000 head over last year. The year-to-date total continues to run higher than last year—still well over 1.4 million head higher. 

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 50,000 head, compared with about 46,000 head the previous week. The packers have about 205,000 head of forward contracts available for December and 222,000 head in January.

Now looking at the prices, the weekly weighted average cash steer price for the Five Area region was $120.58 per cwt, compared with $118.97 the previous week, $1.61 higher. The weighted average cash dressed steer price for the Five Area region was $189.91, compared with $189.09 the previous week, 82 cents higher.

The Five Area average formula price was $190.72, compared with $195.04 the previous week, making it $4.32 lower  

The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending Nov. 18 was 902 pounds, which was the same as last week but still considerably below the 918 pounds the same week last year.

The Choice-Select spread was $22.38 on Friday, compared with $23.14 the previous week and a $17.02 spread last year. However, we’re approaching the time in December when the daily Choice rib primal normally starts a very big plunge in price, which impacts this spread, so we need to watch this closely.