"Cattlemen have much to be thankful for this holiday season with all-time record high prices posted during November on most major cattle and beef products. This includes Choice carcass cut-out values, 50% percent lean beef trimmings, live slaughter cattle (including CME contracts), yearling feeder cattle (including the CME feeder cattle index and the Board), and all classes of lightweight calves throughout the country," explain analysts with the Agricultural Marketing Service. "This has by far been the most impressive market performance in the history of the beef cattle industry and it has happened right in the face of turkey/ham day and the seasonal lull in retail beef featuring and purchasing."

The light test of feeder cattle sold at auction last week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, brought steady money to $3 higher. Fed cattle rallied back 50¢ to $3.50 to sell for $123-$127 on a live basis. Choice boxed-beef cutout values were $196.23 Friday.

Looking further down the road, Steve Swigert, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation (SRNF) ag consultant in Ardmore, OK, says, "The future of the beef industry is filled with both opportunities and challenges due to the 2011 drought in the Southern Plains, high price of grains, volatility in the commodity markets and fewer dollars available for research and education. The consolidation of the industry will continue with more beef produced by fewer producers and with fewer cows. Supply chains will continue to be more and more prevalent and, in general, the beef industry will have fewer participants. We are already seeing this trend as the largest 10% of the cow-calf producers raise 54% of the cows, the largest 2% of the feedyard ownership groups feed 86% of the fed cattle and the three largest packers harvest 82% of the fed cattle."

In a recent SRNF news article, Swigert addresses the future, when grass returns, for producers in the Southern Plains forced by the drought to destock.

"For operations forced to destock, the price of replacement cows will be at historical highs; the value of gain for stocker cattle will be extremely important in determining the viability and profitability of stocker enterprises, and there will be a feedyard contraction," Swigert says. "It will mean that ranches will not be fully restocked with cows, thus making it crucial to explore other enterprises to maintain ranch profitability. Also, the availability of capital will be of greater importance since the cost of cattle, both for cows purchased for a cow-calf operation or calves for a stocker operation, will be higher."

See the report at www.noble.org/Ag/.

The summary below reflects the week ended Nov. 25 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.
MO 25,400 $159.58 $146.93 $143.57 $136.97 $133.20 $134.97
SD 18,100 $169.31 $157.12 $132.506 $149.73 $131.734 $133.87
IA 14,300 $162.97 $151.87 $145.99 $144.75 $137.05 $131.48
NE 14,100 $165.83 $148.594 $141.33 $148.63 $140.80 $137.40
OK 14,100 $151.482 $149.05 $147.33 $141.97 $135.48 $128.22
KY* 13,400 $144.40 $140.09 $137.83 $125.95 $121.98 $137.83
MT 5,900 $155.112 $147.09 $130.96 $145.37 $130.44 $126.254
NM 5,800 $143.37 $124.96 $123.35 ** $118.154 $118.49
WY 5,600 $164.73 $138.61 $130.724 $143.01 $131.99 $130.466
CO 5,100 $158.22 $145.25 $136.17 $137.69 $128.24 ***
AR 3,800 $149.46 $137.37 $137.204 $127.92 $124.57 $121.644
TN* 2,500 $142.15 $129.47 $121.47 $123.35 $111.50 $108.05

* 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.