Bearish Cattle On Feed Report

The following report was prepared and written by Jeff Swenson, DATCP’s livestock and meat specialist. This report draws information from several sources, including trade publications, radio broadcasts, agricultural news services, individuals involved in the industry as well as USDA reports.

The Cattle on Feed report released last week was somewhat bearish. Total inventory on feed was 3 percent higher on Dec. 1 compared to a year ago. Placements during November were 2 percent lower than last year, but that was still higher than pre-report estimates. Placements continue to outpace expectations partly due to feeder cattle imports from Mexico.

The USDA also released a Monthly Livestock Slaughter report last Friday indicating that beef cow harvest in November was less than 1 percent below last year, so calves being weaned early and moved to feedlots sooner than usual may also be taking place. Total beef production in November was 5.8 percent less than 2022 while harvest by head was 6.1 percent lower.

Last week saw fairly good cash activity with beef breed steers and heifers $2.40/cwt higher. Last week’s estimated harvest of 621,000 head was 28,000 less than the previous week but 69,000 head higher than the same week a year ago. The Choice beef cutout continues to face headwinds, averaging $290.19 last week and that was $1.58 lower.

Beef in cold storage at the end of November was 2 percent higher than October. Lower export sales could account for the higher inventory, although the total is still 13 percent less than this time last year.

Auction markets reported light runs to open this week. Fed cattle prices were mostly steady to $1 higher where numbers were sufficient.

High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $165 to $170/cwt with some to $175. Choice steers and heifers ranged from $159 to $166/cwt. with mixed grading and those likely to grade Select bringing $150 to $158/cwt. Holstein steers were better tested and mostly steady to $1 higher. High grading steers brought to $148 to $152 with some lots to $155/cwt. Lower grading steers brought $122 to $146. Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $122/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were mixed, bringing $126 to $161/cwt with a few higher.

Cows were $2 to $5 higher. A bulk of the cows brought $60 to $86/cwt with some fleshier dairy and beef cows selling into the low to mid $90s/cwt and a few to $100/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $57/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were fully steady, bringing $100 to $300/cwt with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $400. Beef and Beef Cross calves were lower selling up to $600/cwt.