Cattle Harvest Highest 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.


Last week’s estimated harvest of 609,000 head was the largest in seven weeks. That was 23,000 head more than the previous week and 4,000 more than a year ago. Packers are facing negative margins, so the increase in volume surprised some analysts.

Wholesale beef prices moved lower last week. The Choice beef cutout value averaged $301.10 last week, making it $8.03 lower. The cutout did show strength early this week, making up those losses by Tuesday only to turn lower again at midweek. Cash cattle were $1.10/cwt lower this last week.

Live Cattle futures contracts have been hard hit the last two weeks and packers will attempt to closer align cash bids with futures prices. Cattle feeders will keep asking prices steady. Beef exports reached 103,883 metric tons in February, down 1% from a year ago, but export value increased 10% to $830.4 million.

January-February exports were also down 1% to 203,647 metric tons, with export value climbing 9% to $1.59 billion. February beef export value equated to $412.79 per head of fed cattle harvested, up 5% from a year ago. Beef imports in February were up 23.8% compared to last year and are up 31.9% in the first two months of the year.

Cattle Prices

Fed cattle were lower this week. High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $173 to $182/cwt with a few instances of tops of $190/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 higher. High grading steers brought $158 to $168/cwt with reports of some from $168 to $172/cwt, with a few higher. Lower grading steers brought $127 to $158. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $125/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were mixed, bringing $128 to $175/cwt, with some higher.

Cows were steady but mixed. The bulk of the cows brought $94 to $121/cwt with some fleshier dairy and beef cows selling to the low $130s/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $94/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were steady, but the tops were lower this week. Most brought $200 to $400/head with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $580. Beef and Beef Cross calves were steady, selling up to $800/higher with a few to higher.