Compared to last week; a good test of steer and heifer calves sold mostly steady with instances as much as $5 higher, predominantly across the Southeast and the Southern Plains winter wheat region. 

True yearling feeders were only lightly tested (as their supplies are mostly exhausted) and traded fully steady where available.  The feeder market is fully entrenched in the Fall-Run with heavy supplies of spring-born cattle weighing from 400 lbs all the way up to 800 lbs.  Across the Northern Plains, many large volume auction markets have gone to holding two big sales every week as opposed to two moderate auctions per month. 

Agriculture members from the eastern Dakotas have begun assisting those less fortunate that were victimized by the freak blizzard that caused disastrous losses early last month.  The South Dakota Ranchers Relief Fund is well on their way to reaching a modest goal of one million dollars by year’s end.  Calves have been donated and resold (time and again) at participating salebarns and even some grain farmers have donated a portion of their crop to help those worst affected. 

The delayed cattle-on-feed report was released on October 31st with few surprises.  Both inventories and placements came in very close to expectations with feedlot occupancy down 8 percent compared to last year and September new feeders up just 1 percent from a year ago.  September marketings were slightly larger than thought at 6 percent more than the same time in 2012. 

Despite the seasonally large offerings of feeder calves, headcounts are noticeably lighter than usual throughout the circuit mostly due to multiple years of drought across major production areas and the sudden rise in heifer retention. 

These tight supplies should support price levels throughout the fall and winter, along with much cheaper feedcosts as corn prices marked a three year low early this past week.  Hay stockpiles and winter pasture are also much more readily available with the best wheat pasture outlook in recent memory and drastic improvements in drought ravaged areas like Colorado. 

Herd rebuilding is now more than just a rumor with fewer top quality heifers for sale and increased competition on those offered.  At the Huss Platte Valley Auction in Kearney, NE on Wednesday a load of F-1 (Angus-Hereford cross) replacement quality heifers weighing 626 lbs brought $189 straight off their own mommas and without any pre-condition or calf-hood vaccination shots.  However, plainer and smaller packages of unweaned and unworked calves seem to fall farther behind their peers every week. 

Many areas have received their first hard-freeze but buyers will continue to snub the high-risk cattle until the big strings peter-out and the weather has turned consistently cold.  Fed cattle sold unevenly steady at mostly $132 after last week’s sharp gains.  This week’s reported auction volume included only 37 percent over 600 lbs and 39 percent heifers.