Cash Fed Cattle Lower For First Time in Weeks

The following meat market update was prepared and written by Jeff Swenson, DATCP livestock and meat specialist. The market update draws information from several sources, including trade publications, radio broadcasts, agricultural news services, individuals involved in the industry as well as USDA NASS and AMS reports. Edited by Mid-West Farm Report.


Cash fed cattle were lower last week for the first time in six weeks. Factors leading to uncertainty are clouding otherwise bullish fundamentals. China has blocked shipments from a major U.S. beef plant because unconfirmed traces of the feed additive ractopamine were found. At the same time, China has lifted import bans from five Australian processors that had been suspended since 2020. Some analysts are concerned the moves are a reaction to new tariffs the U.S. has placed on some Chinese goods and that more processors could be suspended soon. Exports to China/Hong Kong make up about 25% of total U.S. exports currently.

Record high cattle weights are helping keep beef supplies higher than were expected. These factors come at a time when cattle feeders should be gaining more leverage. On the positive side, reports are that beef demand during the Memorial Day holiday weekend was strong. It is not surprising that Americans are spending more on beef than a year ago but buying less of it.

The Choice beef cutout has been moving higher. Last week, it averaged $313.24 for a gain of $1.61. It was not long ago that $300.00 proved to be a level of resistance. The cutout was above $315.00 on Monday and if that holds, the next key level will be $322.00. Harvest was lower last week due to the holiday. The USDA estimates 540,000 head were harvested, making it 67,000 head fewer than the previous week and 28,000 head lower than the same week last year, which also included Memorial Day.

Some parts of the country are reporting heifers at feeder cattle auctions being purchased for replacements rather than heading to feedlots. While this is not happening nationwide, it is some of the first solid news regarding herd expansion we have had in two years.

Cattle Prices

High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers were mostly steady at $175 to $186/cwt with a few instances of packages bringing $187 to $190/cwt, with some higher. Choice steers and heifers ranged from $163 to $175/cwt with mixed grading and those likely to grade Select bringing $150 to $163/cwt. Holstein steers were steady to higher. High grading steers brought $160 to $173 cwt with reports of some to $175/cwt. Lower grading steers brought $127 to $160. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $127/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were steady, bringing $130 to $176/cwt with some to $180/cwt.

Cows were steady to $1 higher. The bulk of the cows brought $101 to $127/cwt with some to the high $140s/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $100/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were steady from $200 to $400/head with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $725. Beef and Beef Cross calves were steady, selling to $980/head with some higher.


Market lambs were mixed last week. Lambs weighing 70 pound and lower were down sharply nationally from $5.00 to $25.00/cwt. Traditional market lambs were steady to $10.00/cwt higher. The lamb cutout value was $476.16 last Friday, $19.89 higher than the end of the previous week. Rack and rib primals have been helping lift the cutout value.

The number of meals eaten away from home has been decreasing, with some consumers reporting cooking-at-home fatigue similar to what was seen in 2020-2021. This tends to benefit lamb.

The estimated harvest of 30,000 sheep and lambs last week was 3,000 lower than both the previous week and the same week last year.


Hog farmers are walking the fine line between loss and profitability. The market has improved from its over year-long lows and feed costs have been coming down. Domestic demand continues to be watched closely. Indications are that it has improved but will need to hold to keep hog prices at current or higher levels.

Export sales bounced back from two disappointing weeks. The current state of pork exports is a success story. Exporters worked diligently to develop and grow new and existing markets as sales to China decreased.

The pork cutout was $2.52 higher last week, averaging $102.59. The cutout value did show some weakness this week. Last week’s estimated harvest was 2.155 million head, 207,000 less than the previous week but 130,000 more than last year’s holiday week. Lower wholesale prices did not keep cash hog prices from starting the week higher.