Feeder cattle prices were consistent with the previous week at $123 as the anticipation of fewer livestock for sale is countered by hesitant bids from beef packers seeing margins steadily decline.

Demand for yearling feeders continues to be better in northern states with some bids going up to $3 higher than the previous week. Most sales are steady with the previous week.

Active buyers keep the yearling feeder market strong. According to USDA Market News reporter Corbitt Wall the St. Joseph, MO Stockyards feeder cattle auction on Wednesday was one of the best markets in the facility’s 130 year history. “Top sales included a load of 834 lb heifers at $146.85, a load of 843 lb steers at $163.10, and two part loads of 735 lb steers from $172.75-$173.50,” Wall said. 

Last week’s dressed sales averaged $194.00.

The calf market took a step back last week as the market moves seasonally lower at a time when temperatures are vastly different from midday highs to overnight lows, threatening animal health. In addition to the changing weather, Wall says pre-condition yard sickpens fill up with several calves facing a combination of separation anxiety and shipping fever.

Steer and heifer calves sold steady-to-lower and price drops were observed in the southeastern part of the country where Wall says sales were $3-$5 lower and some areas as much as $10 lower.

The cattle industry received good news Thursday as the USDA raised its corn crop estimate. Feeding costs are sure to drop, but the direction of the cattle market will be influenced by the price consumers are willing to pay for beef as 2014 approaches.

Last week’s auction receipts totaled 203,400 which was an improvement over the previous week’s total of 134,100 and lower than the 235,000 from last year. Direct trade was higher last week at 45,200 with video/Internet sales adding 37,000 for a total of 285,600. Last week’s accumulated total was higher than the 179,800 the previous week, but lower than last year’s 404,100.

Boxed beef prices moved lower last week on weak-to-light demand and offerings. Choice cuts finished the week $2.54 lower than the previous Friday with sales at $192.69 while Select cuts were $4.51 lower selling last Friday for $176.68. The Choice/Select spread Friday was $16.01.

Slaughter cows sold steady to $2 higher, slaughter bulls sold unevenly steady. The cutter cow cutout Friday morning was $165.29, down 93 cents from the previous Friday.