As price spreads between weights continue to narrow—collapse completely in some cases—the market is paying the premium for folks willing to add more weight. Across the board last week, feeder calves and yearlings brought steady money to as much as $4 more than the holiday-shortened week that preceded it. That seems especially bullish, given how hard fed cattle and futures cattle prices worked last week to lose as little as possible.

“Demand is very good for the larger lots of auction cattle (where available) and short-term delivery country sales, but prices progressively weaken for late summer or fall delivery feeder cattle (especially calves),” said reporters for the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Friday. “Nearly a half million head of feeder cattle were offered for sale on video auctions across the country during the first two full weeks of July. The majority of these cattle are advertised for fall delivery and the heavier supplies have weighed on prices with some top quality 6-weight steer calves struggling to bring $100 while near term sales and current sale barn prices for these types routinely make their way above $110. Buyers are particularly discounting calves right off the cow to be shipped in September and October when the days are hot and nights are cold. However, lower corn prices continue to drive the market for yearling feeder cattle ready to go on feed.”

There’s little reason to doubt that will continue this week, what with the increased corn production and supply estimates released by USDA Friday (see "Estimated Corn Production-Stocks Grows").

“The Omaha cash corn price dipped below $3/bu. (last week) for the first time since October 2007. This prompted Iowa farmers who still have feed pens behind the silo to dig out forgotten phone numbers of feeder cattle order buyers. These small farmer/feeder lots have mostly gone unused for the past couple years, but many old school grain producers know that there’s more than one way to take their corn to town,” say AMS analysts.

Global economic struggles, anemic demand and increasing supplies of competing meats domestically will continue to pressure prices. In their weekly Cattle Outlook, University of Missouri agricultural economists Ron Plain and Glenn Grimes noted Friday, “Demand for live fed cattle was down 8.7% in January-May compared to a year earlier. The weaker demand for fed cattle than consumer beef demand was believed to be caused by larger net beef imports and the weak hotel and restaurant trade…

“Cash fed cattle prices at the current time are $7-$8/cwt. below a year earlier. As a result, 750-800-lbs. feeder steers are $11-$12/cwt. lower than this time last year. Steer calves weighing 450-500 lbs. are also $10-$12/cwt. below a year earlier.”

Fed cattle sales were $1.50 lower in the Southern Plains Friday afternoon. Live and dressed sales in KS were $1 lower. Elsewhere, live sales were $1-$1.50 lower; dressed sales $1-$2 lower.

The summary below reflects the week ended July 10 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 23,400 $112.63 $102.87 $102.62 $99.88 $98.56 $96.16
TX 21,600 $101.21 $107.84 $104.33 $95.36 $98.56 $96.16
MO 20,400 $111.06 $107.00 $103.72 $101.25 $98.53 $97.12
KY* 17,700 $106.48 $99.26 $92.36 $93.77 $89.34 $89.936
AL 14,600 $103.51 $94.72 $91.67 $92.99 $86.68 $79.60
NE 10,500 $121.83 $114.00 $108.71 $112.54 $106.88 $103.18
FL* 8,300 $84-102 $81-96 $83-87 $77-93 $76-90 **
GA*(***) 7,800 $90-105 $85-101 $81-92 $80-94 $80-90 $78-85
MS* 7,700 $95-1051 $90-1003 $85-905 $80-911 $80-893 $75-845
AR 7,600 $100.50 $98.27 $95.834 $91.42 $88.50 $89.674
Carolinas 6,300 $92-106 $88-101 $85-97.50 $82-95 $77-90 $72-86.50
LA* 6,300 $90-104 $88-98 $85-954 $80-94 $82-90 $80-854
TN* 5,900 $103.64 $98.82 $92.51 $92.67 $88.74 $82.92
SD 5,700 ** ** $99.536 ** $99.89 $96.08
KS 5,600 $112.22 $106.19 $104.60 $105.08 $98.23 $96.23
VA 3,900 $106.332 $103.55 $97.82 $93.16 $94.62 $90.77
NM 2,100 ** $100.36 $97.276 $94.20 $91.38 $84.926
MT 1,200 $106.502 ** $96.256 ** ** **
WA* 1,000 ** ** $90.73 ** ** **

* 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.