USDA's semi-year cattle inventory survey said the number of feeder cattle in the U.S. was down 2.2% at midyear. The number in feed yards was up 0.8% leaving the supply of feeders outside feed yards down 3.3% compared to July 1, 2011. Feed yards will continue to struggle to keep pens full; but with record corn prices, they are not likely to chase feeder cattle too hard.

Nationally, 57% of pastures were rated poor or very poor on July 29. That compares to 55% poor or very poor the week before and 36% a year ago. Missouri has the lowest condition rating with 98% poor or very poor, 2% fair, and 0% of Missouri pastures rated good or excellent.

USDA estimates only 24% of the corn crop was in good or excellent condition on July 29. That compares to 26% good or excellent the week before and 62% a year ago. The Crop Progress report says 29% of the soybean crop was rated good or excellent on July 29 compared to 31% a week earlier and 60% a year ago. Next Friday USDA will release their August production and price update.

Corn prices climbed back above $8 to end the week. The September corn futures contract ended this week at $8.10/bu, up 11 cents from the week before. December corn ended the week at $8.075/bu, up 14 cents for the week. August soybean meal ended the week at $531.60/ton, up $3.90 from the previous Friday.

After six weeks of decline, the beef carcass cutout value was higher this week. On Friday morning, the choice boxed beef carcass cutout value was $178.69/cwt, up $1.52 from the previous Friday. The select carcass cutout was up $1.63 from the previous week to $171.95/cwt of carcass weight.

Fed cattle prices were higher this week. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $117.58/cwt, up $3.65 from last week and up $6.84/cwt from the same week last year. Steer prices on a dressed basis averaged $184.94/cwt this week, up $4.81 from a week ago and up $9.29/cwt from a year ago.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 647,000 head, up 1.6% from last week, but down 2.0% from a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on July 21 was 859 pounds, down 1 pound from the week before, up 12 pounds from a year ago, and above a year earlier for the 28th week in a row.

Oklahoma City feeder cattle prices were steady to $4 higher this week with prices for medium and large frame #1 steers: 450-500# $144, 500-550# $132-$150, 550-600# $133-$153, 600-650# $128-$144.50, 650-700# $130-$141.50, 700-750# $137-$140, 750-800# $133.50-$141, 800-900# $127-$138, and 900-1000# $131-133/cwt.

The August live cattle futures contract settled at $119.975/cwt, up 38 cents from the previous Friday. The October contract settled at $124.375/cwt, down 89 cents. December closed at $127.275/cwt, off $1.14 from the previous Friday.

August feeder cattle futures ended the week at $138.95/cwt, $1.20 higher than last Friday. October feeders ended the week at $140.125/cwt.

Source: Ron Plain and Scott Brown