A contra-seasonal and unexpected sharp decline in stocker and feeder cattle prices leaves many cattlemen facing severe losses. Most of the industry’s recent lost equity has occurred in the feedlot sector, but stocker operators now face their own struggles.

Yearling feeder cattle sold $3 to $7 lower last week and calves traded fully $5 to $10 lower, and as much as $20 lower. That decline follows a $4 to $8 slump recorded the previous week.

“Sharply lower prices were a continuation of the previous week’s weather-related sell-off and additional pressure from global economic and violence fears,” says USDA Market News reporter Corbitt Wall. “Virtually every major publicly traded commodity market was sharply lower to start the week on Monday, followed by somber moods when news of the Boston Marathon bombing surfaced.”

The fed cattle trade was a stand-off most of the week with light to moderate numbers exchanging hands at $126 per hundredweight, $1 lower than the previous week. Dressed sales in the North occurred at $200 to $202.

Friday’s cattle on feed report provided some additional bearish news, with the April 1 inventory at 10.9 million head, a little higher than what analysts expected. Most surprising, however, was the number of cattle placed in March, which totaled 1.9 million, a 6 percent increase over last year. Marketings fell below expectations at 1.77 million, 8 percent under last year’s number.

Last week’s auction receipts totaled 195,200, compared to 228,500 the previous week and 193,400 last year. Direct sales of stocker and feeder cattle totaled 34,600 with video/Internet sales at 4,200. The weekly total was 234,000, compared to 224,300 last year.Boxed beef prices traded lower, with Choice boxed beef down $1.80 for the week  to close Friday at $189.52. Select boxed beef was down $2.87 for the week to close at $184.14. The Choice-Select spread was $5.38.

Slaughter cows and bulls sold steady to $1 lower. USDA’s cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday was $164.99, down $4.95 from last Friday.