Compared to last week, feeder steer and heifer calves sold steady to 3.00 lower, with the southeast selling calves 2.00-5.00 lower. Yearlings sold through the auctions unevenly steady with direct sales steady to 2.00 lower. The quality and condition of feeder calves at this time of the season being a factor as buyers were fairly aggressive at several auctions for high quality light calves as well for heavier weight weaned calves and light yearlings suitable for grass. The latest report from USDA indicated that 52 percent of all pasture conditions were rated good to excellent condition, compared to 39 percent last year at this time and 37 percent average over the last five years for the end of August.

Good pasture conditions, lower grain prices and current expectations for one of the largest US corn crops have the possibilities of providing the cow-calf operators and cattle feeders some relief. Demand remains good for stocker cattle and calves with this ample forage and grain. To be sure, cattle feeders find themselves in an environment at this time which should be positive, but find that shaky consumer demand and increased competition from pork and chicken are continuing to pressure the beef market. With average daily livestock slaughter running around 128,000 head of cattle and over 420,000 head of hogs each day that’s putting a lot of meat on the market with demand on the lackluster side.

During this economic downturn consumers are spending less. Retailers have slowed down this week‘s buying after doing a lot of beef business in the last couple of weeks filling their freezers in preparation for the September 7 Labor day weekend, as fed cattle prices rose last week trading mostly at 85.00. Reduced numbers of fed cattle this week was hoping to stir confidence that packers would pay at least steady money on fat cattle this week. Hopes were deflated on Thursday with Nebraska trading cattle at 129.00-130.00 dressed 2.00-3.00 lower than last week. Trade interest is very subdued in the south at this time ahead of the Labor Day Weekend. Fed cattle supplies are getting tighter, but the demand side of the equation is the big question. Friday’s close on Choice Boxed Beef Cutout closed lower for the week at $141.61 down 88 cents while Select was down 85 cents at $134.09 helping to keep a lid on cash cattle prices. This week’s reported auction volume included 48 percent over 600 lbs and 41 percent heifers.

Source: Corbitt Wall, AMS/USDA