Feeder and stocker cattle markets continue to show strength through October, which is annually the month with the most pressure from spring-born calf sales and shipments of previously contracted cattle. 

Despite the lightest inventory in 60 years, there are literally millions of calves currently leaving the ranch for their first time.  These calves are going to feedlots, pre-condition yards, and wheat fields for continued weight gain, but the stress of the relocation and the volatile weather patterns take a toll on their health. 

Price trends are not available due to the nearly three week federal government shutdown, but a sizeable amount of information continued to be collected by state departments of agriculture that normally work in accordance with USDA market reporters. 

However, the closing of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service website took away the main source of dissemination for these valuable market reports.  The much anticipated cattle-on-feed report due out this Friday has been rescheduled for release on October 31st. 

This week’s available regional weighted average feeder cattle prices were $2-$5 higher than the last available from the last full week of September.  The full advance was noted in the Southern Plains on true yearling feeders and on 5 weight calves for wheat pasture.  Although, some market pressure has been noted on 6 weight unweaned calves in which supplies always outweigh demand of this time of year. 

The promise of less expensive feed grains continues to become a reality as the first half of October has seen ideal harvest conditions.  Winter wheat planting also moved at a brisk pace this fall and this should also increase cattle grower options for affordable feed.  The one extreme exception to the mild fall has been the freak blizzard that crippled the western Dakotas and eastern Wyoming where reportedly as many as 100,000 head of cattle perished. 

There is no doubt why sales receipt percentages of heifers are much lighter than usual while 500-600 lb replacement quality heifer calves in Kearney, NE on Wednesday brought $201-$208.25.  Farther north and west in Valentine, NE on Thursday a 243 head string of fancy 492 lb steer calves sold for $220.25, while a 100 head load of big brothers weighed 553 lbs at $198.75.

 Yearling sales also warranted mention this week like the nearly 320 head of 800-850 lb yearling steers in Green City, MO that averaged 822 lbs at $170.76.  Fed cattle markets are very near all-time record highs with live sales from $129-$131 and dressed from $202-$204.  This week’s incomplete reported auction volume included just 39 percent over 600 lbs and 39 percent heifers.