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As 2021 winds to a close, cattle markets seem to finally be able to move out from under the specter of the pandemic impacts that began 18 months ago.

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The fall feeder run is in full swing, with calf prices moving counter-seasonally higher. In Oklahoma, the combined auction total last week (Nov. 13) was 40,411 head of feeder cattle, up from 26,298 head the week prior. 

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The pandemic and other market shocks (i.e., packing plant fire, unprecedented winter storm, cyberattack, etc.) since 2019 have resulted in impacts and residual effects that affect cattle and beef markets in different ways and over different lengths of time. 

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Rain and the revived prospects for wheat pasture lifted calf and stocker prices in October. Prices bottomed earlier than usual in the first week of October and increased counter-seasonally the last three weeks. 

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The October USDA Cattle on Feed report showed that feedlot placements in September were 97.1 percent of last year, and marketings were 96.9 percent of one year ago. 

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The combination of drought impacts and high crop prices means that beef cattle producers face significantly higher feed costs this winter. Increased feed costs have been impacting feedlots for several months, and the impacts will grow as cow-calf and stocker/background producers face additional feed and supplement needs this winter. 

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Welcome rains fell across much of Oklahoma recently, with most areas receiving 0.5-2 inches of precipitation. September was exceptionally dry across the state, with drought conditions building quickly. 

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The August placements were the largest placement total for the month since 2011. Among major cattle feeding states, placements were largest in Nebraska, up 11 percent year over year, and Colorado, up 17 percent from last year. 

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The cattle cycle is perhaps the most iconic characteristic of the U.S. cattle industry. Cattle cycles emerged as the ranching industry developed in the late 1800s.