Compared to last week, feeder calves over 600 lbs sold unevenly steady to weak with trends ranging from 2.00 higher to 3.00 lower. Stocker calves under 600 lbs traded steady to 3.00 lower with the full decline on 550-600 lb heifers and the best demand noted for steer calves under 500 lbs which had instances of higher trends at several markets throughout the US.

There are currently not enough true yearling feeders available for a good market test, and the few that are being offered for sale have received heavy amounts of supplemental feed which distorts their market value. Persistently dry conditions over the last two years throughout the central portions of the country have caused unprecedented; liquidation of breeding stock, movement of stocker cattle into confined feeding operations, and early marketing of home-raised calves in an effort to preserve cow herds.

Virtually no “green” or strictly grass feeders are available and the majority of the new-crop calves on offer are right off the cow. Normally, producers are still making use of stockpiled grass to put cheap pounds on feeders or to help background calves during weaning.

The current shortage of pasture and hay (not to mention 7.00-8.00 corn) is drastically affecting the condition of available feeders and the demand for these cattle. Traditional winter backgrounders have been slow to enter the market, despite the smallest calf crop in 60 years.

Most believe there is still plenty of demand out there but prospective buyers are conserving their feed, water, and medicine until later in the season. But, nationwide auction receipts for the year are running more than 5 percent less than 2011 and 10 percent less than the 5 year average, and most market watchers expect offerings to tighten even more from December through spring.

Like usual, cattlemen are betting on the come as they can hardly wait for the next crop of grass and corn. In most major marketing areas this week (especially south of I-70) the cost per head of a 475 lb calf is within 50.00/hd of one weighing 625 lbs, and in many documented cases the light- weight calf actually costs more.

It’s not that bidders don’t realize that each of those 150 lbs should at least be worth the cost of the bigger calf per pound. Buyers simply want to grow that lighter calf on 2013’s grass and fatten that calf on 2013’s corn. Some form of moisture is badly needed in the Plains and the Midwest as a nor’easter dumped rain and snow on the eastern seaboard’s concrete jungles that were already saturated by Superstorm Sandy.

Southern Plain’s wheat fields are thirsty for the chance of moisture in the weekend forecast, but sharply colder temperatures may cause the crop to crawl back in the ground and hibernate for the winter. Fed cattle sold 1.00 lower from 125.00-126.00 with the latter price reserved mostly for the Texas Panhandle. This week’s reported auction volume included 36 percent over 600 lbs and 41 percent heifers.