"The ongoing trend of lighter numbers of cattle on feed (for well over a year now), plus the diminishing numbers of total cattle inventory, have not been enough to offset the fading demand for beef," say analysts with the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). "Plus, packers have done a good job managing tight supplies of market-ready cattle and feedlots cannot seem to find adequate leverage to raise the market."

For the most part, the market continues to run sideways. Fed cattle traded at mostly $81-$82 last week, steady to $1 higher than the previous week, which represented recouping the $1 lost that week.

Feeder cattle and calves sold unevenly steady with a higher undertone for stocker calves and lightweight yearlings; heavier feeders (over 800 lbs.) traded with a slightly lower undertone.

"The feeder market is lacking a true sense of direction at the present time, as input costs and future fed-cattle prices fail to fully respond to fundamental supply data," say AMS analysts.

Among the fundamentals are declining cattle numbers that are expected to decline further. Also on this side of the ledger is a corn crop many are predicting to be the second largest on record (see "Record Corn Supply Forecast").

According to the folks at AMS, the strongest feeder cattle demand is for last fall’s weaned calves which have the ability to exploit this year’s abundance of hay and late summer pasture forage.

"The benefits of fall calving can help not only the producers that have the ability to do it, but also the entire industry by spreading out the supply of cattle hitting the market at any one time," say AMS analysts. "Most typical spring calvers try to narrow their calving window somewhere between Feb. 1 and the end of May. These calves normally flood the market between Oct. 1 and the end of the year, with only a small number of producers weaning their calves and holding them into the following year. This leaves the best months for stocker demand wide open for marketing, but only a light supply of fall calves or mismanaged cattle to fill it."

That may change a touch this year as some analysts expect calf marketing this fall to be similar to last: more cow-calf producers holding calves into next year to combat anemic markets.

"The number of sole stocker operators that use their forage and feed for backgrounding continues to increase as cattlemen get busier with diversification and jobs in town. A spreading out of America’s beef-cattle supply would help with demand all the way up the chain," say AMS analysts.

The summary below reflects the week ended Aug. 14 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.
TX 27,100 $102.42 $98.64 $100.49 $97.41 $94.01 $93.54
OK 26,200 $108.37 $105.09 $103.47 $100.71 $99.82 $97.51
MO 18,900 $112.04 $107.15 $103.27 $99.30 $98.84 $95.98
KY* 16,800 $104.51 $99.73 $91.75 $95.21 $90.25 $83.57
AL 12,100 $102.08 $99.59 $91.63 $93.53 $88.98 $81.78
Dakotas 9,800
SD
ND

$117.24
$107.812

$107.994
$105.98

$104.03
$105.43

$115.95
$97.592

$100.20
$96.25

$95.756
$94.67
FL* 8,900 $85-101 $80-94 $84-91 $80-92 $77-92 $84-934
KS* 8,800 ** $103.94 $98.29 ** ** $92.05
NE 8,700 $121.93 $116.09 $105.37 $107.34 $102.41 $98.03
IA 7,100 $117.27 $113.32 $104.78 $107.87 $102.41 $98.03
MS* 6,800 $94-1051 $90-1003 $85-955 $85-961 $85-95 $75-855
TN* 6,600 $100.14 $95.91 $92.99 $91.46 $87.69 $84.22
GA*(***) 6,100 $89-106 $85-102 $83-92 $82-94 $79-94 $78-82
Carolinas 6,000 $90-104.50 $85-102.50 $85-94.50 $80-95 $76-90 $72-84
VA 5,700 $105.06 $101.85 $98.65 $87.63 $87.21 $85.89
LA* 4,300 $89-1031 $87-993 ** $83-971 $83-953 **
AR 4,000 $103.52 $98.55 $98.724 $93.61 $90.72 $89.984
NM 2,800 $97.64 $95.92 $92.89 $91.82 $92.02 $84.34
WA* 2,300 $97.44 $95.362 $94.02 $87.902 $86.974 $88.81
WY 2,300 ** ** $95.436 ** ** $92.387
CO 1,400 ** ** $103.806 ** ** $93.03
MT 1,200 ** ** $98.50 $104.00 $97.824 $91.30

* 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.