Cattle Futures Tumble as Cargill Reveals Beef-Plant Closure

U.S. lean hog futures found major support due to firm pork demand and expectations that a seasonal slowdown in the number of hogs headed to slaughter could begin to encourage stronger cash market prices. February hogs added 0.8 cent, or 0.9%, to 85.95 cents a pound, a one-week high for the spot contract. The April contract picked up 0.65 cent, or 0.7%, to 88.07 a pound.

U.S. live-cattle futures tumbled Thursday after Cargill Inc. said it would close a beef-processing plant in Texas due to dwindling cattle supplies. Futures fell by their daily exchange-imposed limit at midday Thursday before paring some of their losses. The February live-cattle contract closed at $1.266 a pound, down 1.92 cents, or 1.5%. That was a one-month low for the spot contract, although after the floor closed, most contracts were continuing to recover losses in electronic trade. April cattle dropped 1.82 cents, or 1.4%, to $1.3087, a five-month low for that contract. Cargill said it would close its Plainview, Texas, plant Feb. 1, noting that the prolonged drought that has hit ranchers in the U.S. Plains had led to tighter supplies.

Wheat futures were slightly lower Thursday, pressured by selling after a rally and by mixed expectations for export demand. CBOT March wheat fell 3 3/4 cents, or 0.5%, to $7.81 1/4 a bushel. KCBT March wheat fell 5 1/2 cents, or 0.7%, to $8.37 a bushel. MGEX March wheat fell 2 1/4 cents, or 0.3%, to $8.69 1/4 a bushel. Wheat futures had rallied since Friday, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast tighter-than-expected U.S. wheat supplies due to a rise in demand for wheat used in animal feed.

U.S. grain and soybean futures fell Thursday, pressured by profit-taking after recent gains. Chicago Board of Trade March corn futures settled down 6 3/4 cents, or 0.9%, at $7.24 1/2 a bushel. March soybeans fell 6 1/4 cents, or 0.4%, to $14.30 1/4 a bushel.

Cotton futures remained at 12-week highs Thursday as better-than-expected U.S. export sales encouraged more buying in the market. For the week ended Jan. 10, net U.S. sales of the desirable Upland variety of cotton were 339,000 480-pound bales, up 36% from the prior four-week average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Over 300,000 was definitely more than I was expecting," said Chris Kramedjian, a risk management consultant at INTL FCStone in Nashville, Tenn. He added that descending prices during that week gave spinners a lot of opportunities to buy the fiber. China, the world's No. 1 consumer, bought 32% of the cotton sold. ICE cotton for March delivery on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange up 0.6% at 77.84 cents a pound, its highest since Oct. 19.

At the livestock auctions held Wednesday in Norwood and North Wilkesboro, a total of 785 cattle were sold. Slaughter cows trended $.50 to $4.00 higher; bulls were $2.00 higher. M&L 1-2 feeder steers, 400-600 lbs., trended mostly steady to $2.00 higher; heifers were steady to $7.00 higher. Average dressing slaughter cows brought $71.00-$82.50, with high dressing up to $84.00. Average dressing slaughter bulls, 1000 lbs. & up, sold from $89.00-$96.00. M&L 1-2 feeder steers, 400-500 lbs., brought $144.00-$175.00, 500-600 lbs. ranged from $138.00-$158.00. 400-500 lbs. M&L 1-2 feeder heifers ranged $125.00-$143.00 and 500-600 lbs. were $120.00-$135.00.

At the goat sale in Smithfield, 88 goats and 29 sheep were sold. All prices are quoted per head. Slaughter and Replacement Classes, Selection 1 and 2: Kids: under 20 lbs $30.00, 20-40 lbs $32.50-$82.50, 40-60 lbs $65.00-$135.00, 60-80 lbs $135.00-$147.50. Yearlings: 60-80 lbs $107.50-$137.50, 80-100 lbs $142.50-$155.00, 100-120 lbs $177.50. Does/Nannies: 50-70 lbs $65.00-$92.50, 70-100 lbs $80.00-$137.50. Wethers: 70-100 lbs $160.00-$175.00, 125-150 lbs $190.00. Bucks/Billies: 70-100 lbs $82.50-92.50, 100-150 lbs $110.00-$170.00, 150-250 lbs $175.00-$190.00. Sheep, per head: Slaughter lambs: Good 20-60 lbs $42.50-$90.00. Choice & Prime 60-100 lbs $125.00-$160.00. Ewes: Good 100-200 lbs $105.00-$137.50; Utility 80-100 lbs $80.00-$90.00; Cull 60-120 lbs $42.50-$75.00. Rams: 100-200 lbs $160.00-$180.00.

U.S. 2 yellow shelled corn trended $.06 to $.12 lower when compared to last report. Prices ranged $7.44-$7.94 at feed mills and $7.49-$7.84 at elevators. U.S. 1 yellow soybeans trended $.06 to $.11 cents lower, and were $14.35 at processors, and $13.50-$14.15 at elevators. New crop U.S. 2 soft red winter wheat was $6.81-$7.25. Soybean meal, f.o.b. at processing plants was $459.00 per ton for 48% protein.

U.S. crude futures rose Thursday, breaking above $95 a barrel as an improving jobs outlook and optimism about the U.S. economy boosted oil to the highest level since September. Light, sweet crude for February delivery settled $1.25, or 1.3%, higher at $95.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange for March delivery traded $1.38 higher at $111.06 a barrel. Front-month February reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled 4.70 cents, or 1.7%, higher at $2.7684 a gallon. February heating oil settled 2.21 cents, or 0.7%, higher at $3.0212 a gallon.

Natural-gas futures prices climbed 1.7% to a six-week high on Thursday, as colder temperatures in the Eastern U.S. boosted home-heating demand and reduced inventories by greater-than-expected levels. Natural gas futures for February delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 5.9 cents to settle at $3.494 per million British thermal units, the highest price since Dec. 7. With gains in five of the past six days, futures have climbed 38.1 cents, or 12.2%, on expectations of colder conditions.

Gold climbed to a one-month high Thursday as a weak reading on mid-Atlantic manufacturing underlined the view that U.S. growth may not be robust enough for the Federal Reserve to pull back on its accommodative monetary policy. The most actively traded contract, for February delivery, rose $7.60, or 0.5%, to settle at $1,690.80 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest ending price since Dec. 17.

The Dow jumped 84 points to close at 13596. The Nasdaq rose to 3136, gaining 18 points. The S&P 500 jumped 8 points to close at 1480. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.