Cattle placed on feed in May were 13.8% lower than a year earlier – the lowest level in 13 years, according to Friday’s monthly Cattle on Feed Report (COF). That was a full 1.5% lower than pre-report estimates.

“Even with slightly higher placements in recent months (just over 4% higher than in 2008 for both March and April), this probably signals some giving in to market conditions on the part of cattle feeders,” said analysts with CME’s Daily Livestock Report yesterday.

“Continued disappointments in the fed cattle market and continuing higher feed costs had to eventually impact decisions. That time certainly appears to have arrived.”

The bullish COF and after-hours trading Friday that saw Southern Plains feedlots able to maintain steady money at $82 has folks hoping to at least stabilize anemic calf and feeder markets.

According to analysts with the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), yearlings brought steady money to $2 more last week; of course, the previous week they were $1-$3 lower. Calves and feeders held steady, but they were $2-$5 lower the previous week.

“…the slumping fed cattle market and persistent feed prices have offered little support to feeder cattle,” say the AMS folks. “Just as yearling prices hinge on availability in the summer, grain markets seem to overreact to every change of weather pattern between the Rocky Mountains and the Ohio River Valley. The Corn Belt has been so wet this year that many areas may not see knee-high corn by the 4th of July, but heat is on the way and fields are expected to rebound.”

In his weekly market commentary last week, Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University livestock marketing specialist, noted, “The jury is in with the verdict for beef demand after Memorial Day. Choice boxed-beef prices have dropped to $140/cwt., roughly the same level as mid-April. Boxed-beef prices peaked at over $152/cwt. around May 1 but the market has not been able to sustain prices since the holiday weekend. Retail markets and exports both confirm weakness in consumer spending on beef in the face of any amount of supply pressure.”

Between demand and supply realities the guessing game continues.

“Contracting of fall delivery feeder cattle has been very slow with buyers and sellers having differences of opinion on what to expect,” say AMS analysts. “Markets would no doubt be higher if cattle feeders could take a rare trip into the black before contracts are written. Time is running out with Superior Video’s Week in the Rockies set for the second week in July, with five full days of late summer and fall cattle up for sale.”

The summary below reflects the week ended June 19 for Medium and Large 1 – 500- to 550-lb., 600- to 650-lb. (calves), and 700- to 750-lb. feeder heifers and steers (unless otherwise noted). The list is arranged in descending order by auction volume and represents sales reported in the weekly USDA National Feeder and Stocker Cattle Summary:

Summary Table
State Volume Steers Heifers
Calf Weight 500-550 lbs. 600-650 lbs. 700-750 lbs. 500-550 lbs. 600-650 lbs. 700-750 lbs.
OK 28,400 $110.77 $104.18 $99.65 $98.07 $95.99 $94.22
MO 26,100 $110.41 $106.26 $101.58 $98.98 $96.49 $92.02
KY* 19,600 $105.23 $97.33 $92.32 $89.97 $84.81 $83.29
TX 16,400 $101.56 $102.60 $95.75 $93.92 $92.194 $92.48
AL 8,700 $101.07 $94.59 $85.59 $92.99 $86.68 $79.60
Carolinas 6,000 $86-103 $84-98 $80-88 $78-94 $74-91 $70-86
AR 5,700 $101.47 $97.27 $95.914 $91.04 $86.51 $85.314
GA*(***) 5,700 $86-102 $82-101 $74-91 $82-93 $78-90 $76-81
MS* 5,000 $90-1001 $85-963 $80-905 $85-981 $77-893 $74-855
FL* 4,600 $86-100 $80-92 $78-884 $80-92 $81-84 $84-88
TN* 4,600 $101.19 $94.56 $89.94 $90.68 $87.28 $82.80
NE 4,400 $123.542 $102.864 $101.80 $109.45 $99.00 $95.06
SD 4,400 ** $106.684 $107.54 $113.532 $101.39 $91.936
LA* 3,700 $85-102 $80-963 ** $73-98 $70-893 **
IA 2,900 $113.85 $105.52 ** $106.35 $98.24 $94.59
NM 2,500 $109.22 $92.77 $95.04 $109.01 $96.912 **
VA 2,500 $110.23 $103.85 $91.95 $92.59 $87.73 **
KS 1,600 ** ** $96.117 ** ** **
MT 1,600 ** ** ** ** $99.98 $96.20
WA* 1,100 ** ** ** ** ** $88.757

* Plus 2
** None reported of the same quality at this weight or near weight
(***) Steers and bulls
(?) As reported, but questionable
NDNo Description
1500-600 lbs.
2550-600 lbs.
3600-700 lbs.
4650-700 lbs.
5700-800 lbs.
6750-800 lbs.
7800-850 lbs.