The fed cattle market, it seems, is in a bit of a yo-yo pattern—up one week, then down a little, then up again. For the week ending Feb. 24, the yo-yo headed on a downward arc, with the cash trade for fed cattle mostly $2 per cwt lower.

The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 211,131 head, compared with about 210,676 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 92,517 head, compared with about 127,306 head the previous week.

The reason the Five Area region is important is because it accounts for around 80% of the total national fed cattle sales each week. The region includes the major feeding areas of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa.                                         

Most of the cash sales are on a 1-14 day delivery, but the national cash sales this week include more than 6,000 head of 15-30 day delivery, compared with about 6,300 head the previous week.  We’ll watch this each week because it’s always important, and especially as we get into higher market-ready fed cattle supplies.

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 572,000 head, compared with 574,000 head the same week last year.  Current year-to-date total is about 104,000 head higher than last year.

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 45,000 head, compared with about 47,000 head the previous week. The packers have about 183,000 head of forward contracts in March, then more than 255,000 head already for April, which is a normal increase.

Now looking at the prices, the weekly weighted average cash steer price for the Five Area region was $127.95, compared with $129.75 the previous week, which was $1.80 lower. The Five Area weighted average cash dressed steer price was $204.69, compared with $205.02 the previous week, 33 cents lower.

The Five Area average formula price was $203.30, compared with $200.79 the previous week, making it $2.51 higher. That’s a normal pattern, as the formula price reflects the previous week’s cash price.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending Feb. 10 was 889 pounds, which was 1 pound higher than the week before but that compares with 879 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 $5.55 on Friday, compared with $4.76 the previous week and $3.48 last year.