Between having to ship cattle due to a lack of groceries, and some choosing last week to exploit the record and near-record high prices of the past couple of weeks, heavy auction volume was running ahead of capacity in some areas.

In Texas, for instance, AgriLife Extension personnel in the Rolling Plains reported area sale barns turning people away because sales were running so long.

According to the Texas Federal-State Market News Service, since the first of June, volume at more than 20 sale barns in the Lone Star State was more than 42% heavier year-to-date.

Analysts with the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) say receipts for the last three cow and bull sales at the livestock auction in Woodward, OK, totaled nearly 13,000 head compared just over 3,000 on the same dates a year ago.

Throw in the kind of heat that melts a belt buckle and prices wilted.

Feeder cattle and calves sold $4-$10 lower, as much as $15 lower in some instances.

"The nationwide heat wave was responsible for much of the market pressure as most major cattle production areas sweltered under triple-digit heat and oppressive humidity," explained AMS analysts Friday. "Demand was especially light for feeders carrying considerable flesh, unweaned calves, or long-haired cattle that have failed to shed-off as these types melted like popsicles."

There was no help from other markets, either. Corn prices continued to roller coaster with the heat wave (see "Corn Volatility Hits High Gear"). Choice and Select boxed-beef values lost better than $6/cwt. on the week due to heat-inhibited demand. Fed cattle traded another $2-$3 lower, making for a decline of $6-$7 over the past two weeks.

"Typically, there are a couple weeks every summer that hot weather takes its toll on feeder-cattle demand (as it did this week) but normally this coincides with light offerings and does not overly impact the market," AMS analysts said. "Sellers across the country were scrambling to cash in on last week’s market, in addition to a huge exodus of grass yearlings off drying double-stocked pastures in eastern Kansas and Oklahoma, plus the continued sell-off of all classes of forage dependent bovines in the drought stricken Southwest. All this cattle relocation during the hottest week of the summer resulted in a shortage of cattle trucks – running wide-open on $4 diesel with their air conditioners on high."

Near term, Friday’s Cattle on Feed report was bearish, too, with significantly more June placements than the trade was expecting (see "Drought Skewing Corn Estimates").

Further down the road, the AMS folks point out, "...near-term feeder markets will no doubt be pressured by the surprisingly high placement figure. However, if all these cattle went on feed early, then there has to be fewer cattle available to go on feed later in the year."

The summary below reflects the week ended July 22 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 46,100 $139.47 $142.90 $140.24 $128.35 $129.51 $127.60
TX 33,300 $134.68 $142.44 $140.63 $127.02 $125.83 $121.91
MO 18,200 $138.83 $137.31 $132.37 $130.34 $127.15 $122.67
KY* 17,100 $141.14 $133.05 $120.086 $126.07 $128.28 $121.89
KS 14,500 $136.46 $140.93 $136.94 $128.65 $129.93 $130.78
AL 10,800 $133.23 $126.58 $123.04 $122.90 $118.78 $110.13
AR 10,300 $132.78 $127.34 $125.864 $121.75 $118.31 $116.394
NE 8,700 $148.392 $140.43 $142.57 $139.73 $136.72 $129.05
GA*** 8,200 $119-135 $114-130 $111-125 $112-125 $104-123.75 $102-111
Carolinas* 7,000 $115-140 $110-133 $112-120 $105-134 $100-123 $100-113
FL* 6,800 $118-134 $116-132 $113-122 $112-126 $105-125 $107-109
TN* 6,200 $132.09 $126.74 $121.58 $121.63 $116.08 $112.22
IA 4,700 $137.952 $139.74 $139.06 $133.39 $131.52 $129.94
NM 4,700 $151.27 $135.61 $132.87 $134.84 $124.19 $123.27
MS* 5,800 $123-134 $120-130 $116-127 $115-128 $105-120 $110-115
VA 2,300 $136 $131.97 $122.05 $129.38 $118.17 $111.69
WA 1,600 $136.38 $132.084 $129.95 $124.822 $123.89 $118.85

* 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.
8850-900 lbs.