USDA's December Cattle on Feed report said there were 1.4% fewer cattle in large feedlots on December 1 than a year ago. It said placements were up 15% and marketings were up 16.6% in November. Placements were the highest for any November since 2013. Marketings were the highest for any November since 2006.

These numbers were in line with the pre-release trade forecast which predicted placements were up 13.3% and marketings were up 16.5% year-over-year. The trade expected the number on feed December 1 to be down 1.4% from last year. November steer and heifer slaughter was up 17.5% year-over-year. The calculated average placement weights in November were slightly higher than a year ago. The increased placements were mostly in the 600-800 pound categories.

The Livestock Marketing Information Center has estimated the average loss for closeouts at southern plains feedlots was $91.06 per head in November. That compares to a loss of $203.71/head the month before and a loss of $490.87/head a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were higher this week on heavy sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $115.14/cwt, up $4.91 from last week's average, but down $8.36 from a year ago. The 5-area dressed steer price averaged $179.79/cwt, up $9.48 from the week before and down $19.81 from a year ago.

Beef cutout value was also higher this week. This morning, the choice boxed beef cutout value was $199.01/cwt, up $4.24 from the previous Friday and $1.38 higher than a year ago. The select carcass cutout this morning was $187.07/cwt, up $6.37 from last week.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 572,000 head, down 4.5% from last week, but up 41.6% from the same week last year, which included Christmas Day.

The average steer dressed weight during the week ending on December 10 was 908 pounds. That is down 5 pounds from the week before and down 1 pound from a year ago.

Stocker and feeder cattle prices were steady this week at the Oklahoma City auction. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $153, 450-500# NR, 500-550# $137.50-$156, 550-600# $134, 600-650# $127.50-$134.50, 650-700# $129.50-$136, 700-750# $129-$137, 750-800# $123-$132.50, 800-900# $125-$137.50, and 900-1000# $125-$131.50/cwt.

Cattle futures were higher this week. The December live cattle futures contract settled at $114.57/cwt today, up $2.25 for the week. February live cattle gained 95 cents this week and closed at $116.30/cwt. The April contract settled at $114.32, up 72 cents for the week.

The January feeder cattle futures contract ended the week at $131.12/cwt, up $1.22 from a week earlier. March feeder cattle gained 87 cents this week to settle at $127.17/cwt. April feeder cattle settled at $126.62/cwt.