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

Seeing all sides of the weather market

Brutal weather, harsh outcomes put cattle buyers and sellers on opposite sides of the bus.

I saw a cartoon once that showed two passengers on the same bus going through a mountain pass. Each passenger was sitting on opposite sides of the bus. One passenger had a magnificent view of the valleys and was enjoying the trip. The other passenger had a view of a dull rock wall that to him was depressing. These two people left the same bus station, on the same bus, going to the same destination, but had completely different views of the trip.

What does that have to do with the cattle markets? This week it’s much the same as that trip. We seem to all be fighting some kind of nasty conditions created by weather. In Nebraska it's either blizzards or floods, just downright nasty. Some people threw their hands in the air and decided to sell some cattle so they could quit doing chores in the mud and slop. Some buyers wouldn’t buy because they don’t want new cattle in this mess. Some of us have a different perception and took advantage of the great buying opportunity!

I noticed some sellers were upset. I think one thing a cow-calf operator sometimes doesn’t realize is the cattle they sell may be shipped quite a ways to the buyer’s yard. With blizzards and floods wiping out roads, a truck may not be able to get to a would-be buyer’s yard.

On Monday the market was steady to slightly higher. Then it was like throwing an anvil over a cliff as the storm got closer.

The greatest value of the gain was once again in the lightweight calves, providing a wonderful opportunity. The bad news is once the cattle weigh over 650 pounds, the value of the gain will not come close to covering the cost of gain, with the exception of maybe a seven-weight heifer. This smacked conventional wisdom -- which says a bigger calf equals a bigger paycheck -- right in the face.

With the current pen conditions, a bawling calf carried a $10 to $35 discount. That should help offset the high cost of bedding.

I noticed that the weigh-cow auctions had an unusually large run, even for this time of year. The overabundance of wet-bag cows and baby calves tells the story of how well calving is going right now.

I saw plenty of bred cows in the offerings, with plenty of buyers interested in bidding on them, they just weren’t interested in bidding them very high.

Replacement quality heifers carried a $10 premium.

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