Cash Cattle Reaches Three Consecutive Weeks of Higher Prices


Cash cattle were up $2.50/cwt last week making it three consecutive weeks of higher prices. Weather impacted cattle movement this week with some packing plants closed or operating on a limited basis one or two days due to the winter storms. Two plants in Kansas were unable to operate Tuesday with a Cargill plant losing power there.

Tuesday’s estimated harvest total of 94,000 head was 32,000 lower than the same day last week. Wisconsin auction markets and stockyards saw larger runs Monday ahead of the storms, but Tuesday’s numbers were lighter. Last weeks’ harvest estimate of 556,000 head was 48,000 more than the previous week and 9,000 below last year. Live weights tend to decrease during the winter, but we have not seen that so far this year. The storms in the Southern Plains could start that trend, however, and will slow down the supply of market ready cattle.

Live Cattle futures have been moving higher with some traders believing a low was put in during early December. The Choice beef cutout value continued its slide last week, averaging $278.86 for a loss of $12.59. It did see modest gains early this week though. The USDA will release its twice-yearly Cattle Inventory report at the end of this month. There is little doubt it will show the nation’s cowherd has continued to shrink. Feeder Cattle Futures seem to be anticipating smaller numbers with the deferred contract months showing large gains when compared to the nearby months.

Cattle Prices

Fed cattle prices were mostly steady to strong this week. High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $166 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 mostly steady. High grading steers brought to $148 to $152 with some higher. Lower grading steers brought $122 to $148. Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $122/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were steady to higher, bringing $126 to $163/cwt with a few higher.

Cows were $1 to $2 higher. A bulk of the cows brought $62 to $88/cwt with some fleshier dairy and beef cows selling into the high $90s/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $61/cwt and down. Dairy breed bull calves were fully steady, bringing $100 to $300/cwt with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $420. Beef and Beef Cross calves were higher, selling up to $660/cwt.