It certainly appears that a large number of heifers are being held on farms for breeding. The number of steers on feed at the start of October was up 7.4%, but the number of heifers was down 7.0% year-over-year. Only 32.2% of the cattle on feed were heifers.
The number of cattle placed on feed in September weighting less than 800 pounds was down 11.5%, but the number placed weighing 800 pounds or more was up 7.8% compared to a year ago. That has been the pattern for the past year, fewer light weight cattle in feed yards and more heavy weight cattle. The calculated average placement weight during September was up 1.8% compared to a year ago. This was the 14th consecutive month with the calculated average placement weight above the year-ago level.
This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $219.20/cwt, up $2.16 from the previous Friday, but down $32.57 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $211.88/cwt up 99 cents from last week, but down $27.29 from last year.
Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $136.77/cwt, up $6.77 from last week's average, but down $30.65 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price this week for steers was $209.79/cwt, up $2.69 for the week, but down $53.51 compared to the same week last year.
The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on October 17 was 930 pounds, up 2 pounds from the week before, up 32 pounds compared to the same week last year, above the year-ago level for the 70th consecutive week, and record high for the third week in a row. Steer dressed weights have set records in 6 of the last 7 weeks. This week's average dressed weight is 24 pounds heavier than any week prior to September.
Cattle slaughter this week totaled 553,000 head, down 0.5% from the week before and down 0.2% from the same week last year.
Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were steady this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $253-$266, 450-500# $211-$243, 500-550# $206.75-$236, 550-600# $191-$224, 600-650# $183.50-$206.50, 650-700# $174-$201, 700-750# $169-$198.50, 750-800# $175.50-$191.25, 800-900# $166.50-$193.50 and 900-1000#, $170.50-$182/cwt.
Cattle futures were lower this week. The October live cattle futures contract settled at $139.25/cwt today, down $1.78 for the week. December fed cattle settled at $141.72/cwt, down $1.68 from the previous week. The February contract lost $1.66 to end the week at $143.42/cwt.
November feeder cattle ended the week at $190.90/cwt, down $2.35 from a week earlier. The January contract lost $2.30 this week and closed at $183.20/cwt.
USDA estimates that 27% of pastures were in poor or very poor condition on October 25. That is up 2 percentage points from the week before and 9 points higher than a year ago.