Though they've been focused on separate driving factors, beef demand and fed cattle markets will come together this summer on consumers' preferences for meat.

"Fed cattle markets are groping for a summer bottom amidst seasonally large slaughter and beef production," says Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist. "Meanwhile, feeder markets appear to have found a bottom after being on the defensive since February."

Feeder cattle have been looking at new crop corn prospects for several weeks now, following the drought-driven price spikes from 2012. Feedlots have also taken advantage of lower feeder prices, ensuring suitable placements in the spring.

But feeder markets have been strengthening recently based on better demand, and Peel says the higher prices are expected into the fall, offsetting better feed prices.

"Strong feedlot placements the past three months have utilized the slightly larger feeder supplies indicated on Jan. 1, plus some of the heifers intended as replacements this year," he says. But "feeder supplies are expected to tighten considerably in the second half of the year, with reduced feeder cattle imports and a smaller 2013 calf crop."

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