Stocker calves and yearlings sold steady to as much as $4 higher last week on strong buyer demand and lower corn prices. Analysts say the cattle markets are trading in a very seasonal pattern, and declining corn prices will continue to support stocker and feeder prices. Last week the central Illinois cash corn price was $3.25 per bushel, about 15 cents lower than the previous week and more than $3 lower than last year’s $6.34 price. In Omaha the cash corn price dipped below $3 per bushel for the first time since October 2007.

Buyers are aggressively seeking larger lots of auction cattle and short-term delivery country sales. Nearly a half-million head of feeder cattle were offered for sale on video auctions during the first two full weeks of July. The majority are offered for fall delivery, and the heavier supplies have weighed on prices to some degree. In many instances, yearlings offered for fall delivery on video are seeing bids as much as $10 below what the same cattle would bring at auction.

Analysts believe feeder-cattle prices have the potential to move higher through late summer, with prices supported by more economical costs of gain for feedyards. But feedyards continue to struggle to buy a profit, as most breakevens are now projected at $90 to $92 for those cattle coming off feed this fall.

Feeder steers weighing 700 to 800 pounds sold at auction in a range of $97 to $108 per hundredweight last week, with the bulk of cattle at $98 to $103. Steer calves weighing 400 to 500 pounds sold in a range of $109 to $129 per hundredweight, with the bulk of cattle in the $114 to $120 range.