By the end of last week, feeder and stocker cattle traded mostly steady to $2 higher after losing ground earlier in the week, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

Plus, fed cattle ended the week on the highest note in better than a month, with live cattle in the Texas Panhandle bringing $2 more than the previous week at mostly $84. Fed-cattle prices also advanced $2 in Colorado ($83) and Nebraska ($82-$83); they were $1.50 higher in Kansas at $83.

Of course, all that positive news occurred mostly before this month’s “Cattle on Feed” report was issued Friday. Most analysts expected higher September placements and weren’t surprised to see them at 105% of last year.

Mostly, though, the positive news occurred ahead of USDA announcing further testing of some hogs for possible infection with Pandemic H1N1 Influenza (see “USDA Testing Pigs For Pandemic H1N1 Influenza”). If the tests come back positive – even if they’re negative, depending on how long it takes to find that out – last week’s market bulls may opt to concentrate upon ongoing negative news.

For instance, analysts at the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) pointed out last week that for the first three quarters of 2009, Choice cutout boxed-beef values averaged $141.46/cwt., more than $13/cwt. less than last year’s average of $154.61/cwt. However, that’s only $1.70/cwt. less than the 2003-2007 average.

“In particular, consumer demand for middle meats has been rather lackluster, which has been a drag on the overall Choice cutout value as these items account for the largest value share of the total cutout value,” LMIC analysts explain. “In terms of beef, the rib primal has suffered the most on a value basis, down more than $18/cwt. so far this year, compared to the same nine-month period last year, while the loin primal was down over $15/cwt. In contrast, the values of the end meats have been relatively strong, with the brisket primal $5/cwt. higher so far this year while the chuck and flank primals have averaged only $11/ cwt. less than a year ago. Overall, consumers have shifted to lower valued beef items.”

Likewise, the analysts who provide the Daily Livestock Report for CME Group said last week, “The fact of the matter is that U.S. per-capita beef consumption in 2010 is currently expected to be 60.1 lbs./person (retail weight), compared to 69.1 lbs. in 1999, a decline of 13%. Pork consumption in 2010 is now forecast to be 47.1 lbs. per person, 12% lower than where it was back in 1999. The only meat protein that’s shown some growth in per-capita consumption is chicken, with per capita consumption in 2010 expected to be 81.7 lbs. per person, 5% higher than in 1999.

“…The unfortunate fact is that per-capita consumption did not decline simply because of the recession, although the recession accelerated the fall. Rather, U.S. consumers have steadily reduced the amount of beef and pork they consume in the past decade. One could point to a number of culprits for this, from strong export markets, to higher producer costs, to food safety concerns, etc.”

Writing in Friday’s Cow-Calf Corner newsletter, Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist, explained, “Heavy feeder-cattle prices continue to be limited by very weak fed-cattle and boxed-beef price, and there is no sign of improvement in consumer beef demand. The latest trade numbers confirm that beef exports weakened in August under the weight of cheap competing meats. The December corn futures price rallied by roughly $0.70/bu. from the early September lows despite USDA’s confirmation of a 13+ billion-bu. corn crop this year. However, the corn market rally appears to have topped out in the last few days.”

The summary below reflects the week ended Oct. 16 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.
Dakotas 40,900
SD
ND

$106.42
$100.92

$93.58
$99.12

$94.22
$94.417

$92.84
$87.38

$87.93
$85.71

$88.86
$89.37
OK 29,900 $106.44 $95.67 $94.95 $90.53 $90.17 $87.72
MO 20,200 $99.42 $95.15 $96.85 $87.28 $92.64 $88.05
TX 19,100 $97.94 $92.91 $91.58 $89.46 $81.58 $82.83
KY* 17,000 $91.98 $86.23 $88.68 $81.64 $82.68 $81.32
NE 15,900 $106.48 $99.90 $98.88 $94.43 $92.85 $92.54
AL 10,400 $91.94 $86.79 $83.57 $79.11 $75.75 $74.744
NM 9,700 $97.45 $91.02 $88.83 $87.91 $80.72 $79.00
CO 9,500 $103.16 $94.04 $91.03 $92.44 $87.06 $87.57
MT 7,900 $98.36 $95.092 $90.67 $89.33 $83.25 $85.24
FL* 7,500 $76-90 $71-82 $73-77 $70-78 $65-70 $66-71
WY 7,400 $105.20 $96.14 $94.316 $93.06 $92.894 $88.27
GA* 6,700 $82-102 $80-89 $73-80 $72-85 $68-81 $68-69
IA 6,300 $103.72 $95.50 $100.03 $90.86 $88.94 $94.51
TN* 6,000 $90.37 $84.47 $82.02 $78.09 $73.92 $72.69
MS* 5,900 $85-95 $78-993 ** $75-821 $70-813 $72-775
Carolinas 5,800 $80-92.50 $72-84 $68-79.50 $65-80.50 $63-77 $60-75
VA 5,200 $89.67 $84.68 $80.99 $73.87 $73.89 $70.76
AR 5,000 $95.77 $89.48 $88.594 $83.10 $80.85 $80.044
KS 4,500 $97.532 $97.52 $94.09 $92.85 $88.384 $85.09
LA* 4,400 $82-100 $74-88 $73-854 $78-94 $76-85 $73-814
WA* 3,600 $84.95 $83.25 $85.24 $77.742 $75.75 **

* 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.