Beef Prices Continue Higher


Packers slowed down production and that helped push wholesale beef prices higher last week. The weekly harvest estimate of 598,000 was 24,000 head below the previous week and 42,000 head less than the same week last year. The lower harvest total did not keep them from having to bid higher for cattle, however. Negotiated trade was slow through the week but developed on Friday at $1.10/cwt higher. Wisconsin auction markets were reporting higher fed cattle prices this week.

The Choice beef cutout made large gains, averaging $306.74 last week, and that was $9.96 higher. Not only is the cutout value above $300.00, but it has also been above $310.00 this week. The average price of beef in April was $8.15/pound, making it 3 cents higher than March and 3.8% higher than last year. The average beef price in April 2019 was $6.10/pound. Cattle feeders are gambling that fed prices will go higher as both stocker and calf prices were sharply higher last week.

The USDA will release both a Quarterly Slaughter and Monthly Cattle on Feed report late this week. The number of beef cows harvested, and the number of heifers placed in feedlots, will draw particular attention with the absence of a July Cattle Inventory report this summer. The number of dairy cattle gains more importance as overall cattle numbers tighten. The Wisconsin dairy herd totaled 1.27 million cows in April, which is 2,000 above last month and up 4,000 from April 2023. That bucked the overall national trend, however. The number of milk cows in the United States was 9.34 million head, 74,000 head less than April 2023 and 8,000 head less than March 2024.

Cattle Prices

Fed cattle sold higher this week. High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $174 to $184/cwt with a few instances of packages bringing $185 to $192/cwt, with some higher. Choice steers and heifers ranged from $163 to $174/cwt with mixed grading and those likely to grade Select bringing $150 to $163/cwt. Holstein steers were higher. High grading steers brought $158 to $170 cwt with reports of some from $170 to $174/cwt. Lower grading steers brought $127 to $158. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $127/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were steady, bringing $130 to $180/cwt, with some higher.

Cows were higher. The bulk of the cows brought $103 to $130/cwt with some to $140. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $102/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were steady from $200 to $400/head with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $675. Beef and Beef Cross calves were steady, selling to $950/head.


Last week’s net pork export sales total was a disappointing 21,100 metric tons, making it the lowest so far this year. The number has raised concerns, although one week does not make a trend. Cash hogs were $1.70/cwt higher last week. Both packers and farmers are motivated to keep finished weights in check.

Last week’s harvest estimate of 2.404 million hogs was 25,000 more than the week prior and 3,000 less than a year ago. The pork cutout value was up $2.35 last week, averaging $101.35. April’s average retail pork price was $4.81/pound, 2 cents higher than March and 27% higher than the April 2019 price of $3.79/pound. 


The cash lamb market was lower again last week. The lamb carcass cutout was higher, however, finishing last week at $471.87, compared to $464.31 the previous Friday. It is expected that harvest numbers drop this time of year, but the estimate of 35,000 sheep and lambs last week was 1,000 head higher than both the previous week and the same week a year ago. Lamb and mutton production are now running less than 1% below last year.