Placements into feedlots in June were surprisingly high, at 4 percent higher than placements a year earlier. The larger placements were due to a rapid movement of calves weighing less than 700 pounds into feedlots. This was probably related to some backgrounders running out of feed and to lower feed prices in June that gave feedlot managers more confidence in potential positive margins, Hurt said.

"Finished cattle prices are expected to reach summer lows in late August in the $106 to $110 range, similar to current prices. As the weather cools into September, prices are expected to rise seasonally and to average $112 to $116 in the final quarter. For the entire year, this will mean averages of $109 to $112," he said.

First and second quarter prices in 2012 are expected to set records once again with quarterly averages climbing to $115 to $120. Peak seasonal prices in the early spring of 2012 could reach $125, he added.

"Calf prices this fall will be further strengthened if corn and soybean yields can approach normal levels and corn prices drop 70 to 90 cents per bushel from summer levels. The clear message for beef producers is to hold on to cows as the beef industry has a positive outlook for a number of years to come," he said.