Auction volume last week was only about a third of the prior week (100,100 head) due to the holiday, but feeder and calf prices seemed to maintain the strength found the previous week when the market finally seemed to find at least a short-term bottom.

In fact, while there were too few head marketed to quote a trend, some calf prices were as much as $5-$8/cwt. early last week, according to USDA's Ag Marketing Service (AMS). Direct fed cattle sales early last week were also up 50¢ to $2, at $87-$88.

"October feedlot placements were down by 13% from last year. The immediate effect is to contribute to a sharp reduction in feedlot inventories, up 4% from last year, compared to the Oct. 1 level, which was up more than 8% from a year ago," explains Derrell Peel -- Oklahoma State University ag economist -- in his most recent "Market Comments."

He writes: "Clearly, the second drought-induced bulge in feedlot inventories is passing and feedlot totals should continue declining through the end of the year. Additionally, lower placements means there simply aren't as many cattle available and feeder supplies will remain tight through the first half of 2007."

Still, AMS reporters point out, "The big negative factors aren't getting any relief. Orbiting feed costs, corn at a 10-year high and more than $3.50/bu., staying in outer space. Corn is up another 15¢ this week. A year ago, corn was around $1.65/bu. Large areas of drought conditions are getting dryer and expanding. Winter wheat needs moisture to germinate. Cattle numbers in feedlots are still above a year ago."

The summary below reflects the week ended Nov. 24 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.
MO 22,900 $111.24 $102.38 $100.71 $98.52 $98.34 $99.85
OK 14,000 $117.27 $103.59 $103.20 $101.36 $97.06 $90.434
TX 12,100 $108.01 $100.68 $92.35 $95.03 $93.98 $88.474
IA 11,400 $112.35 $105.352 $105.79 $101.56 $99.484 $101.45
SD 10,500 $1120.05 $109.812 $104.44 $1049.10 $98.87 $95.41
NE 8,100 $114.86 $113.922 ** $106.22 $103.632 **
CO 6,900 $113.94 $98.14 ** $100.84 $96.682 **
WY 4,300 $117.66 $104.592 ** $100.63 ** $94.536
MT 4,000 $122.38 $106.422 ** $100.58 $98.082 **
AR 3,300 $103.17 $92.87 $989.784 $910.35 $85.48 $85.00
KS 1,200 ** $104.31 $102.846 $103.98 $95.55 $90.304
WA* 800 ** $93.852 ** ** ** **
VA 4,500 ** $103.61 ** $88.672 $80.55 **

* 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.