Compared to last week, yearling feeder prices continued to steadily advance with nationwide trends ranging from firm to 4.00 higher.  However, calf demand has started to stray in certain regions and buyers are becoming more particular as new-crop receipts progressively make up a larger percentage of available offerings.  Steer and heifer calf sales in the Plains and the Midwest are still rising with most markets steady to as much as 5.00 higher, along with early auction arrivals of reputation ranch strings in the mountain states.  But, deep South and mid-Atlantic calf markets were weak to 4.00 lower as temperatures decline and Northern Plains orders are looking for fewer crossbreds and more predominately English cattle with the hair to quickly acclimate themselves when the weather turns colder.  In fact, late this past week the fall’s first major cold front moved across the country and caused western traditionalists throughout the country to reach for their felt hats. 

Cattle growers would love to fill their needs with calves weaned at least 45 days and an extensive precondition program, but this year’s drought has spread-out the smaller calf run.  Cow/calf producers in most areas were lucky to maintain their core herd and have nothing to wean calves on and little desire to purchase expensive supplemental proteins.  Calves are coming to town right off the cow with little use of knives or needles, although some have a hard-weaned look from the challenges of a hot, dry summer which attracts the eye of some buyers and detracts others that fear additional stress could cause these lightweights to break. 

Those producers with the ability to background their own calves will likely keep possession of them until late in the year or early 2013 when these calves will be as good as yearlings and the CME Feeder Board promises a handsome price.  Thursday in Valentine, NE over 350 head of top quality steers weighing from 700-850 lbs averaged 791 lbs at 154.02.  The future looks rosy for current cattle owners with declining numbers of every class prevailing.  However, feedcosts are overwhelming and the fear of a harsh winter without sufficient feed on-hand brings flashbacks of the fire-sale held during the height of this past summer’s drought and heat wave.  But, fall pastures continue to look promising and the recent strength of the slaughter cattle market is encouraging. 

This week fed cattle sold 2.00-3.00 higher from 126.00-128.00 live and 3.00-4.00 higher from 195.00-196.00 on a dressed basis.  Slaughter cow prices are also gaining rapidly with beef cow harvest rates down 20 percent from last year’s selloff in recent weeks (although dairy cow numbers have been higher) as our nationwide herd is whittled down. 

The Southeast, Southwest, western Plains, and Midwest have all suffered through major drought in the last couple years and these producers have tightened their belt to the last notch.  This week’s reported auction volume included just 46 percent over 600 lbs and 42 percent heifers.