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Watch each Friday for Doug Ferguson's Market Intel blog on Beef Producer.

Cattle markets come alive with urgency

Grass fever seemed to catch hold of the bred-cow markets this week.

This week reminded me of an order buyer I used to do business with. Every February he’d pressure me to start buying grass calves. He’d tell me if I didn’t get them bought by mid March I wouldn’t get very many. I didn’t start then, so he’d call me in the first week of March and tell me if I didn’t get my grass calves bought by the first week of April I wouldn’t get any. I finally started buying grass calves in the middle of April and got all I needed.

After all the flood damage in Nebraska I figured we would see another soft week in the cattle markets. I could not have been more wrong. Good thing my cattle marketing is dictated by the math and not by emotion or speculation. Not everyone operates this way. The sharp rise in the market caught many of us by surprise. In visiting with a few friends our best guess is its panic due to the death losses from the storm. It's the result of thinking if you don’t get them now you won’t get any.

Even if you look at the cattle market only once a week you don't need me to tell you it was higher this week. Once again, the highest value of gain (VOG) was in the lightweights. Depending on region the VOG stalls out around 525to 650 pounds. In one Kansas market the VOG between a six-weight and seven-weight was only 12 cents. The VOG picks up over 700 pounds but is still too low to cover the cost of gain.

I once again saw an unusually large run of wet-bag cows this week.

With warmer temperatures and sunshine the market for bred females and pairs enjoyed a good week. For bred females I saw prices of $1,450 to $1,700, and for first-calf heifer pairs I saw a top of $2,700. For perspective, those prices are double what I saw last week.

Because the flooding caused loss of feed supplies, demand for hay remains high and so do the prices.

I have a few friends who are really big on the idea of keeping up-to-date inventory records. The past week was a painful reminder of how important that is since we just never know when or what may cause us a loss. Keep those records current in the event you may have to prove a loss.

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