Cattle markets remained on the defensive last week as heat, drought and waning consumer demand continue to take a toll on prices.

Fed cattle traded $2 lower at $114 to $115 per hundredweight, and dressed sales in the north were $4 to $5 per hundredweight lower at $182 to $184. Futures markets worked lower during the week, and boxed beef prices declined significantly after the July 4th holiday.

Choice boxed beef values closed Friday at $183.94, a decline of $8.71 from the previous week (9.5 percent). Select boxed beef prices were quoted at $172.57, down $2.14 from the previous Friday. The Choice-Select spread stood at $11.37 per hundredweight.

Stocker and feeder markets traded significantly lower in an atmosphere dominated by negative news on all fronts. Yearling feeder cattle traded $4 to $8 per hundredweight lower than the week before the July 4th holiday, with the least decline noted on the heaviest offerings (over 900 pounds). Compared to prices before the holiday, calf prices were called $8 to $15 per hundredweight lower, with many instances more than $20 per hundredweight lower scattered across the nation.

“Nothing good happened for the feeder cattle market over the holiday break,” USDA Market News reporter Corbitt Wall says, “with the possible exception of the CME and CBOT both being closed on Independence Day, preventing the near limit gains on corn, and near limit losses on feeder contracts that seem to be an otherwise normal occurrence.”

Wall notes that while corn contracts have skyrocketed recently, feeder cattle contracts have declined $15 to $17.

“In recent years, summer backgrounders have regretted contracting their yearling feeders as prices climbed right up to the fall calf run,” Wall says. “But this year many are paying the price for gambling on tight-supply fundamentals to carry the cattle market.  Osage and Flint Hills grazers are either out of time or out of grass and finding firm bids hard to come by and nearly $150 per head less than they could have contracted for a month ago.” 

Last week’s auction receipts totaled 188,800, compared to 175,400 two weeks ago and 245,400 last year. Direct sales of stocker and feeder cattle totaled 106,500 with video/Internet sales at 202,300. The weekly total was 497,600, compared to 471,800 last year.

Slaughter cows were $2 to $6 per hundredweight lower compared to the last test, and slaughter bulls $2 to $8 lower. USDA's Cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday morning was 171.68 down 97 cents from the previous Friday. Omaha cash corn was up 2 cents compared to the previous week at $7.44 per bushel.