Cattle markets saw stronger prices and firm demand in a holiday-shortened week. Packers turned aggressive late Wednesday driving cash fed cattle prices $2 per hundredweight higher at $127 to $128. Cattle sold on a dressed basis at $4 to $5 higher at $201 per hundredweight. Packer demand was called “very good.”

Analysts expect cattle owners to begin the week asking $130.

Boxed beef prices gained throughout the week. Choice boxed beef traded Friday at $196.33, an increase of $3.31 per hundredweight from the previous Friday. Select boxed beef gained $1.09 for the week to $174.17. The Choice-Select spread finished the week at $22.16 per hundredweight, an increase of $2.22 from the previous week.

Slaughter cows sold steady to $1 higher. Slaughter bulls sold steady. USDA's Cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday morning was $161.05, up 88 cents from the previous Friday.

Feeder cattle and calves were not fully tested last week due to the holiday. However, USDA Market News noted a slightly higher undertone at auctions on Monday and Tuesday.

Much of the sale barn talk continues to center around the ongoing drought and the tight supply of feeder cattle. Any thoughts of herd expansion are either on hold or have been cancelled. Analysts believe light stocker cattle and calves would be much higher at this time but potential buyers not only lack forage, but many also have little or no drinking water in pastures for livestock.

Last week’s auction receipts totaled 102,000, compared to 299,400 the previous week and 129,100 last year. Direct sales of stocker and feeder cattle totaled 31,600 with video/Internet sales at 24,000. The weekly total was 157,600, compared to 172,300 last year.