In The Cattle Markets: Market Volatility Continues

US - December corn futures rose nearly $1 per bushel during August from about $6.80 to $7.80 per bushel. In September, the market has reversed itself and the December corn futures price has now declined to $6.90 per bushel, writes Dillon M. Feuz, Utah State University.
calendar icon 23 September 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

Any bets on where the price of corn will be a month from now? What are the odds of $6.00, $7.00, or $8.00? I don’t know the answer to that but I do know when I see a $6.65 put option is priced at $.25 per bushel and that a $7.15 call option is priced at $.27 per bushel, there is plenty of uncertainty in the market.

October live cattle futures have traded in a range of $114 to $121 per cwt. from September 1st until 15 September. The market closed under $119 on the 20th. That is about a $90 per head variation in expected returns. I once again ask the question, does anyone really know what the price of fed cattle will be a month from now?

With that uncertainty in the corn and live cattle markets, there is sure to be volatility in the feeder cattle market as well. Since mid-August, feeder cattle futures have traded in a range from $132 to $140. That is a difference of $64 per head for an 800 lbs. feeder.

I am actually surprised that the variability in feeder cattle prices has not been greater. Perhaps the variability in corn and fed cattle prices has actually offset each other and therefore feeder cattle prices have been a little more stable. Or perhaps, the supply of feeder cattle is short enough that prices will remain fairly strong throughout the fall.

I may not have provided any insight into the market with this column. What I will say, that I have said before, increased volatility is a part of the market. With volatility, there are opportunities to thrive but there are also market perils that can lead to financial ruin. That is the nature of the current market environment.

The Markets

The fed cattle market was lower this past week. Limited trade took place Thursday and Friday this last week. Prices were at mostly $117 on a live weight basis and were $184-187 on a dressed basis. Choice boxed beef prices were higher this week.

The Choice-Select spread increased and is wider than the typical level. Feeder cattle prices were mostly lower this past week compared to last week’s prices. Yearling sales are increasing but few calves are coming to market.

Montana prices were $5-6 lower for heavier feeders. Nebraska prices were $2-4 lower for calves and yearlings this week. Oklahoma prices were near steady for yearlings and were a little higher for calves compared to last week.

Corn prices were steady with last week using mid week prices. Dried Distillers Grain prices were $3 per ton higher and wet distillers grains were about a dollar per ton lower in Nebraska for the week.

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