Encouraging news for cattle and beef producers was scarce as a frozen water tank last week. Cattle feeders swallowed hard and accepted bids another $2 lower on cattle that needed to move while stocker and feeder cattle sellers found a market in near free-fall.

The drivers, of course, are heat, drought and spiking corn prices. Video crews from CNN and other national news media were surprise guests at a handful of auction markets filming drought-forced sales of cattle and despondent cowboys.

Cash fed cattle saw a moderate trade in the south at $113 per hundredweight, with a more active trade in the north at $178 to $180 dressed. Seasonal trends suggest the fed market is near the summer low,.

Choice boxed beef values closed Friday at $179.31, a decline of  $4.63 from the previous week. Select boxed beef prices were quoted at $170.85, down $1.72 from the previous Friday. The Choice-Select spread stood at $8.46 per hundredweight.

Stocker and feeder markets dropped another $6 to $10 per hundredweight, which came after the market had already shed about $20 per hundredweight in the first two weeks of July. Pastures across the nation are rapidly deteriorating due to the drought, forcing the sale of cattle into a market with weakening demand with each limit-up move in the corn market.

Last week’s auction receipts totaled 156,900, compared to 188,800 last week and 210,200 last year. Direct sales of stocker and feeder cattle totaled 81,200 with video/Internet sales at 35,000. The weekly total was 273,100, compared to 327,100 last year.

Slaughter cows were $2 to $10 per hundredweight lower and slaughter bulls $6 to $12 lower. USDA's Cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday morning was $169.81, down $1.87 from the previous Friday. Omaha cash corn was up 68 cents compared to the previous week at $8.12 per bushel.

Analysts expect July’s cattle on feed report released on Friday to have a minimal effect on the markets as numbers came in near expectations. Cattle on feed July 1 was 10.71 million head, 2.7 percent higher than last year. Placements during June totaled 1.664 million head, down 1.8 percent. June marketings totaled 1.965 million head, down 6.1 percent compared to last year.