Compared to last week, feeder cattle and calves sold 2.00-4.00 lower with the least decline on yearling feeders under 800 lbs and weaned steer calves weighing from 400-550 in suitable condition for early wheat pasture grazing.

The full decline of the market was noted on heavy yearlings, unweaned steer calves and all classes of heifer calves. This marks the eighth straight week of predominantly lower feeder cattle prices (and the most severe) with cash feeder steers losing 8.00-10.00 of value since early August. These lower trends do not begin to describe the severity of the discounts that have been imposed on unweaned and fleshy new-crop calf offerings.

Feedlot replacement buyers want true yearlings that are light enough to cheapen-up on low cost of gains, plus they want them at lower price levels that will allow them to lock-in a hedging profit as “betting on the come” is no longer an option for most large volume cattle feeders. Southern Plains wheat backgrounders are cautiously entering the market for lightweight calves, but they want them weaned and vaccinated so they spend only a short time in pre-conditioning lots and can immediately thrive on wheat pasture before temperatures get too cold and wintry weather threatens.

Farmer feeder buying interests remain fully enthralled in corn a soybean harvest which is running 2-3 weeks behind schedule with wet and frigid temperatures forecasted and grain markets responding positively. Feeder cattle demand from these market participants has left out the precise description that is currently making up the largest portion of the supply; soft bawling calves. Outlets are extremely narrow for these types with many (normally active) calf buyers completely out of the market for unweaned offerings and content to watch prices deflate with no level low enough to initiate a response.

Quality is definitely not the issue of the buyer’s prejudice against these calves, in fact many of these discounted calf crops are extremely pleasing to the eye and are bred from top quality cows and pedigreed bulls. But, the undue stress that they come under from being pulled from their mothers and taken from the only home they’ve ever known tends to break down their immunity. Weaning is much more easily done at home and in familiar surroundings, but shrink and sickness can hardly be avoided and calf weaning remains one of the cow/calf producer’s toughest challenges. Also, weaning later in the year is usually less problematic after a hard freeze kills many airborne illnesses and temperatures are more constant, without the highs and lows of mid-October. Fed cattle markets offered no help to the struggling calf market this week with the Southern Plains 1.00 to mostly 1.50 lower from 81.50-82.00 and dressed sales in the Northern Plains 2.00-3.00 lower from 125.00-126.00. This week’s reported auction volume included 39 percent over 600 lbs and 41 percent heifers.