Lower futures prices last week followed downturns in both the calf and fed markets. In late trading Friday, fed cattle prices were $1-$2 lower in the Southern Plains ($90-$91) and were $0.50 to $1 lower in Nebraska ($90-$90.50). Dressed sales in the Western Corn Belt were steady to $1 higher, though, at $138-$140. Moreover, there is increasing speculation among some analysts that fed cattle prices may be positioned to gain strength. One indicator supporting the argument is the fact that cattle feeders were able to hold out for higher prices the previous couple of weeks and were able to hold the line in some areas this week. Those in the bullish camp suggest that front-end supplies may not be as bearish as some had envisioned.

That's fed cattle. Calf and feeder prices continued to decline last week, losing $1-$3/cwt. for the week according to the Ag Marketing Service (AMS). Reporters there note calf prices in some areas have dropped as much as $20/cwt. in the past month.

"In the Northern Plains, calf buyers are waiting for a hard frost and the completion of harvest. In the Southern Plains, backgrounders are waiting for a good wheat stand and enough moisture to ensure that pastures will at least hold their cattle until winter, which was not the case last year," say AMS analysts. "We're currently going through the typical October feeder-cattle cycle; yearling supplies have dwindled, unweaned bawling calves dominate offerings, and wide temperature swings make the preconditioning of these calves a challenge... As we move closer to November, more of the calves will be longtime weaned, cooler temperatures will put less stress on newly purchased cattle, farmer-feeders will have their crops in the bin, and the Hard Red Winter Wheat outlook will be better understood in terms of winter grazing."

Unless is gets real soggy real soon across much of wheat-pasture country, that market won't offer much support (see "Winter Wheat Hopes Dwindling" elsewhere in this issue).

The summary below reflects the week ended Oct. 6 for Medium and Large 1 -- 500- to 550-lb., 600- to 650-lb., 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 34,700 $115.71 $115.93 $111.43 $109.09 $106.27 $106.204
OK 34,600 $122.11 $117.59 $116.454 $111.93 $110.65 $110.87
MO 31,700 $127.61 $122.87 $117.41 $118.72 $114.27 $110.93
Dakotas 30,200
South Dakota
North Dakota

$132.76
$126.64

$132.762
$118.16

$119.406
$150.50?

$123.45
$124.34

$119.672
$113.26

$114.60
**
KY* 23,100 $110-120 $103-1163 $100-1105 $100-110 $95-1053 $88-985
NE 16,200 $113.71 $129.162 $117.52 $120.83 $118.28 $111.41
AL 15,400 $114-121 $108-113 $102-1094 $105-113 $97-103 $95-1024
CO 12,200 $128.16 $122.682 $112.39 $116.14 $113.832 $1106.964
AR 11,200 $117.12 $111.58 $107.70 $108.62 102.69 $97.314
GA*(***) 10,900 $102-117 $93-115 $90-104 $88-113.50 $85-109 $85-90
TN* 10,900 $115.23 $105.15 $99.56 $103.14 $95.91 $91.78
FL* 10,500 $100-118 $93-103 $91-95 $94-105 $88-101 $90-1044
WY 9,700 $127.22 $113.994 $114.82 $117.96 $118.312 $97.217
MS* 8,600 $105-1151 $100-1053 $95-1005 $100-1101 $90-100 $87-904
IA 7,800 $127.87 $126.934 $114.334 $119.38 $111.91 $108.384
Carolinas* 7,300 $90-118 $87.50-1013 $77.50-106.255 $81-102 $75-1013 $72-985
LAND 6,900 $108-115 $96-1073 ** $98-108 $95-1062 **
KS 5,400 $126.51 $119.18 $114.256 $115.87 $112.33 $110.88
NM(*steers) 4,700 $116.85 $108.22 $107.15 $113.01 $105.802 **
VA 4,400 $120.55 $111.83 $102.14 $104.84 $102.89 $97.30
WA* 3,100 ** $107.832 $97.01 ** ** **
MT 2,000 $126.81 $119.082 ** $120.60 ** $107.427

* Plus 2
** None reported at this weight or near weight
(***) Steers and bulls
NDNo Description
1500-600 lbs.
2550-600 lbs.
3600-700 lbs.
4650-700 lbs.
5700-800 lbs.
6750-800 lbs.
7800-850 lbs.