USDA released their cattle on feed report this week. The number of cattle in large feedlots on October 1 was down 7.7% from a year ago. Pre-release trade forecasts were for down 7.4%. September placements were up 1.0% compared to last year. September marketings were up 6.1% thanks to one extra slaughter day. Steer and heifer slaughter during September was up 4.4%. The number of cattle on feed has been down for 14 straight months.

The number of steers in large feedlots at the start of October was down 7.4%. Heifers on feed were down 7.7%. The number of heifers on feed has been declining faster than steers on feed indicating more heifer retention.

The amount of beef in cold storage at the end of September was up 3.4% from the month before and up 4.7% from a year ago.

U.S. beef exports during August were up 6.4% compared to a year earlier. August beef imports were down 7.7%. August beef exports equaled 10.7% of production; imports equaled 7.5% of production. For the first 8 months of 2013, U.S. beef exports were up 3.3% due to a big jump in purchases by Japan. Imports were down 2.9% due to less beef from Canada and Australia.

During August, cattle imports from Mexico were down 29.4%; imports from Canada were up 18.1%.

Fed cattle prices stayed at record levels this week. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $132.19/cwt, down 19 cents from last week's record, but up $6.01 from the same week last year. Steers sold on a dressed basis averaged $209.07/cwt this week, up $1.27 from last week's record and $12.66 higher than a year ago.

This morning, the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $204.33/cwt, up $4.14 from the previous Friday and up $12.53 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout is at $189.58/cwt, up $4.40 for the week and up $14.13 from the same day last year.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 624,000 head, up 1.0% from last week, but down 3.3% from a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on October 19 was 875 pounds, up 5 pounds from the week before, down 4 pounds from a year earlier, and below year-ago for the sixth consecutive week.

Oklahoma City feeder cattle auction prices were steady to $2 lower this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight were: 400-450# $207-$225, 450-500# $197-$208, 500-550# $176-$196.50, 550-600# $172-$182.50, 600-650# $162-$176, 650-700# $147-$174.50, 700-750# $153.50-$174.50, 750-800# $149.25-$166.50, 800-900# $156-$162.25, and 900-1000# $148.25-$149/cwt.

The December live cattle futures contract closed at $132.07/cwt today, down 90 cents from last week's close. February fed cattle settled at $133.47, down 55 cents for the week. The November feeder cattle futures contract ended the week at $163.50/cwt, down $3.15 from the previous Friday.

Source: Ron Plain and Scott Brown