While other factors enter in, weak beef demand continues to be the primary driver behind the flat cattle market, Doane Advisory Service Economist Marty Foreman tells Drovers/food360 editors today. Beef carcass weights have gotten heavier, allowing packers to cut back on slaughter numbers, and competing meats are abundant, but lagging domestic and export demand helped drive wholesale beef prices to six-month lows last week.

Beef prices have rebounded slightly, and tighter supplies of market-ready cattle should boost the cash market over the next 30 days or so, Foreman says. This fall probably will not, however, produce a fed-cattle rally into the upper $80s as expected earlier.

Larger and heavier feeyard placements over the past couple months, meanwhile, will result in growing supplies of finished cattle and beef production later this winter and into the first part of 2010, and cash prices are likely to back off.

In the corn market, Foreman notes that prices have continued to move upward, even after last-week’s Crop Production report projected record yields and a 13-billion-bushel harvest. Harvest concerns continue to create uncertainty in the market, as the crop has been slow to mature. Frost over the past few days ended the growing season across much of the Corn Belt, Foreman says, and now the weather focus turns to harvest conditions as wet weather keeps some farmers out of their fields. December corn futures are at their highest point since June, but, along with cash, probably are near pre-harvest highs. Foreman expects prices to soften after harvest and into the winter.