Cattle Leaving Feedlots For Harvest Early

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.

■ The USDA released a Cattle on Feed report on Friday, December 23. The numbers continue to paint the picture of cattle being pulled to feedlots earlier than a typical year. Buyers are still favoring heavier feeders. Total cattle on feed was slightly lower than December 1, 2020 at 12 million head. Placements were four percent higher than a year ago with cattle marketed five percent above November 2020. Live Cattle and Feeder Cattle futures contracts did not react immediately, but were trading higher Tuesday and Wednesday. Christmas brought an expected drop in harvest numbers, with a more than 25 percent decrease at 488,000 head. Cash country bids started early with packers buying for a full production schedule next week. The Choice Carcass Cutout has been steady, posting at $264.66 Tuesday afternoon. Concerns of production chain challenges due to the Omicron COVID-19 variant continue, as packers are already short on workers.

■ The number of breeding hogs on Wisconsin farms on December 1 dropped by 10 percent from last year according to the latest USDA Hogs and Pigs Report. The number of market hogs and pigs in the state rose, offsetting the drop in breeding stock. Overall inventory remains unchanged at 370,000 head. The U.S. breeding inventory was up slightly from last year, with market hog inventory four percent lower. Farrowing intentions during December 2021 through February 2022 are up slightly compared to the same period a year ago, but eight percent lower than the same period two years ago. Cash hogs and the pork cutout value have turned higher, spurring Lean Hog futures. There is plenty of talk among traders that the seasonal lows have been put in, and if correct, provides welcomed optimism for producers who are seeing their input costs, especially for feed, rise. Estimated harvest last week was 1.918 million head, a 27.5 percent drop from the previous week’s total of 2.645 million the week prior. It will be next week before harvest totals reach the two million head level again.

■ Total pounds of beef in freezers in November was up four percent from the previous month but down four percent from November last year according to the latest USDA Cold Storage report. Pork inventories were down eight percent compared to October and three percent lower than November last year. Overall, red meat supplies in freezers was two percent lower than the previous month, but four percent lower than last year.

■ Lamb sales struggled during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as high end restaurants closed. It took some time for shoppers to find lamb in the meat case, but increased retail sales seem to be sustaining. Year-to-date ground lamb sales are up 25 percent from a year ago.

■ Choice beef breed steers and heifers at Wisconsin and surrounding state auctions were mixed and mostly $1.00 to $2.00 lower. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $125.00 to $138.00/cwt with tops in the low $140.00s/cwt. Choice and Prime Holstein steers were mixed this week at $93.00 to $114.00/cwt. Some packages were selling to $117.00/cwt. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $70.00 to $94.00/cwt. Dairy x beef steers were mostly $95.00 to $134.00/cwt. Cows were steady to $2.00 lower at $32.00 to $52.00/cwt. Blemish free and beef breed cows in fleshier condition sold into $70.00s/cwt with some higher. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $32.00/cwt and down. Dairy breed bull calves were mixed, bringing $50.00 to $100.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $145.00/cwt.  Beef and beef cross calves were lower bringing up to $300.00/cwt. Market lambs were lightly tested, selling to $225.00/cwt.

■ This marks 104 consecutive weeks of Weekly Livestock Market Updates. Thank you to everyone who has taken time to give positive comments and feedback. I hope you all have a great 2022. – Jeff