The July Cattle on Feed report said placements were down 1.8% in June while marketings were down 6.1%, largely due to one fewer slaughter day this June than last. The July 1 on-feed number was up 2.7% in the large feedlots included in USDA's monthly survey. Their semi-annual survey of all U.S. feedlots said the total number of cattle on feed in the U.S. was up 0.8% on July 1.

USDA's semi-year cattle inventory survey said there were 97.8 million cattle in the U.S. on July 1, down 2.2% from a year ago, and the smallest July inventory since this survey began in 1973. The 2012 calf crop is predicted to total 34.5 million calves, down 2.3% from 2011, down for the 17th consecutive year, and the smallest calf crop since 1949. Cows that have calved were down 2.2% on July 1 and replacement heifers were down 1.2% from a year ago. Given the widespread drought this year, it is likely that cow slaughter will increase in the fall and the 2013 calf crop will be smaller yet again.

The July Cold Storage report said there were 471 million pounds of beef in cold storage at the end of June. That is 5% less than a month earlier but 9% more than year ago.

Nationally, 55% of pastures were rated poor or very poor on July 22. That compares to 54% poor or very poor the week before and 33% a year ago. For Missouri, the number is 96% poor or very poor and 4% fair with 0% of Missouri pastures rated in good or excellent condition.

The beef carcass cutout value is lower for the sixth consecutive week. On Friday morning, the choice boxed beef carcass cutout value was $177.17/cwt, down $2.97 from the previous Friday. The select carcass cutout was down 41 cents from the previous week to $170.32/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 $113.93/cwt, up $1.03 from last week and up $6.38/cwt from the same week last year. Steer prices on a dressed basis averaged $180.13/cwt this week, up $1.24 from a week ago and up $5.78 from a year ago.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 637,000 head, down 2.6% from last week and down 4.2% from a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on July 14 was 860 pounds, up 1 pound from the week before, up 14 pounds from a year ago, and above a year earlier for the 27th week in a row.

Oklahoma City feeder cattle prices were steady to $3 lower this week with prices for medium and large frame #1 steers: 400-450# $159.00, 450-500# $147.50-$150, 500-550# $136-$157, 550-600# $131-$149.50, 600-650# $128.50-$147, 650-700# $123.50-$138, 700-750# $118-$137.25, 750-800# $129.75-$135.75, 800-900# $128-$136.25, and 900-1000# $118.50-129/cwt.

The August live cattle futures contract settled at $119.60/cwt, up $1.65 from the previous Friday. The October contract settled at $125.27/cwt, up $2.17. December closed at $128.42/cwt. August feeder cattle futures ended the week at $137.75/cwt, $1.65 higher than last Friday.

Source: Ron Plain and Scott Brown