Cattle Futures Rally Despite HPAI

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.


Cattle futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange experienced volatility early last week as the USDA announced it would test ground beef for Bovine Influenza A virus (BIAV) from retail locations in the states where dairy herds have tested positive for the virus. The results reported all samples tested negative, reaffirming the beef supply is safe. Futures prices rallied late last week after the results were released.

The fed cattle market was higher last week. Packers are caught between negative margins and shrinking show lists. Used cow harvest continues to run behind the past two years and while that may prove beneficial for future beef supply, it has limited current availability of domestic lean trim and grind. Last week’s harvest was 619,000 head, 6,000 higher than the previous week and 2,000 less than the same week a year ago. Last week, the Choice cutout value dropped $2.21 to average $294.51 but was $4.56 higher on Monday this week. The USDA testing results could be a contributing factor for the increase.

March beef export totals were down 10% from the large volume posted a year ago but were still the highest of 2024. Export value was down slightly from a year ago but the highest in nine months. Exports during the first quarter were down 4% from 2023, but export value increased 6% to $2.48 billion. March beef export value equated to $454.62 per head of fed cattle harvest, up 14% from a year ago and the highest since July 2022. Exports accounted for 15% of total March beef production

Cattle Prices

Fed cattle were higher again this week at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets. High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $173 to $183/cwt with a few instances of packages bringing $183 to $188/cwt, with some to $192/cwt. Choice steers and heifers ranged from $163 to $173/cwt with mixed grading and those likely to grade Select bringing $150 to $163/cwt. Holstein steers were steady to $2 higher. High grading steers brought $156 to $168 cwt with reports of some from $168 to $172/cwt. Lower grading steers brought $127 to $156. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $125/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were higher, bringing $130 to $178/cwt, with some higher.

Cows were $2 to $4 higher. The bulk of the cows brought $90 to $120/cwt with some to $130 and above. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $90/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were steady. Most brought $200 to $400/head with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $675 with tops of $700. Beef and Beef Cross calves were steady, selling to $950/head, with a few higher.


Cash hogs were steady last week with the cutout value up just 15 cents to average $98.35. The cutout was pushing against the $100 level early this week, however. Last week, the harvest estimate was 2.406 million, making it 27,000 more than the week before and 46,000 hogs less than last year. Domestic pork demand has been improving. Pork has a price advantage over beef but not over poultry. Protein spending trends by consumers will be watched closely this summer.

Pork exports totaled 260,430 metric tons in March, up 0.1% from a year ago, valued at $740.8 million – up 2% year-over-year and the seventh highest on record. Through the first quarter, pork exports increased 6% while export value climbed 7%. March pork exports to leading market Mexico were lower year-over-year for the first time in 16 months, mainly reflecting the earlier Easter holiday. March pork export value per head harvested soared to $70.85, up 12% from a year ago, the highest in nearly three years and the fifth highest on record. Exports accounted for 32.2% of total March pork production and 27.9% for muscle cuts, up significantly from the year-ago ratios.


Fed lamb prices were mixed last week, being called anywhere from steady to $30.00 lower. There have been wide swings in cash prices over the past four weeks. The cutout was down slightly. The estimated harvest last week was 36,000 head, 2,000 head higher than both the previous week and last year.

March exports of U.S. lamb were 35% below last year while export value fell 5%. However, this year-over-year decline was mainly due to a large volume reported for the Middle East in March 2023, as March exports to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Canada all trended higher than a year ago.

Shorn lambs brought $200 to $227/cwt.