Whole sale beef demand finally had some spark last week, with the Choice daily boxed-beef cutout value gaining $5/cwt. week-to-week. Though not as steamy, Select gained ground as well.

That was the major impetus behind a week of mostly higher cattle futures and cash fed cattle that traded Friday $2-$2.50 higher ($125-$128) and $3-$4 higher in the beef ($198).

Although calf demand benefited from positive vibes in the beef market, proximity to winter forage continues to spur regional variation (see “Stocker Demand Is Following The Moisture”).

“Calf markets continued to be very volatile with stocker steers under 550 lbs. selling firm to $5 higher, while other weights and classes were not nearly as consistent,” said Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) analysts on Friday. “Lightweight heifer calves under 550 lbs. and all weights and classes of long-weaned calves from 550-700 lbs. were mostly steady.”

Bawling calves weighing less than 550 lbs. traded weak to $3 lower.

True yearling cattle sold steady to $3 higher.

Short cattle supplies continue to underpin the market and should have a growing impact from this point forward (see “Dwindling Cattle Supply Favors Pounds & Prices”).

Keep in mind that beef exports continue providing a firm price foundation, too. Although beef exports linger behind last year’s record pace, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), export value in August was the second highest for the year at $486.2 million.

A Closer Look: Beef Exports Slower But Remain Strong

For January through August, beef exports accounted for 9.8% of muscle cut production and 12.7% when including variety meat. That’s down from last year’s ratios of 11% and 14.2%, respectively. Keep in mind that export value per head of fed slaughter during that time was about 6% higher than last year at $212.05/head.

The summary below reflects the week ended Oct. 19 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:

October 22 Cattle Market Prices

* 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.