Cattle Market On Track With Seasonal Patterns

The following report was prepared and written by Jeff Swenson, DATCP’s livestock and meat specialist. This report draws information from several sources, including trade publications, radio broadcasts, agricultural news services, individuals involved in the industry as well as USDA reports.


Both Live and Feeder Cattle futures were sharply lower Tuesday of this week, after a stronger close last week. The volatility seen at the Mercantile Exchange can be attributed to two separate trains of thought when it comes to future beef prices and demand. Some traders expect strong demand to continue and fed cattle prices to increase. Others point to signs of a weakening economy and believe consumers will cut back on beef purchases.

The cattle market has held to seasonal patterns so far this year. Fed cattle weights are increasing, which is typical heading into fall. Retailers usually begin placing orders for sales in mid-October with a focus on middle meats. That typically has a positive influence on farm gate prices through November.

Last week brought weakness to the Choice beef cutout once again with an average price of $302.79, a drop of $4.76. The Cutout value dropped below $300 on Tuesday this week. The harvest estimate for last week was 625,000 head, 7,000 less than the previous week and 46,000 fewer than the same week last year.

Cash prices were steady to slightly higher with the Five Area Weekly Weighted average for beef breed steers of $184.54/cwt. Fed cattle were steady to mostly $1.00 lower this week. Last week’s USDA Cattle on Feed report was within pre-report trade estimates. The number of cattle in feedlots on August 1 was 2.2% lower than last year, with cattle placed into feedlots during July 5.1% lower than July 2022.

Cattle Prices

Fed cattle prices were lower at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets this week. High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $180 to $189/cwt. Choice steers and heifers ranged from $170 to $180/cwt. with mixed grading and those likely to grade Select bringing $158 to $169/cwt. Holstein steers were lower, bringing $155 to $165/cwt with a few to $168. Lower grading steers brought $130 to $155. Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $130/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were bringing $126 to $172 with higher.

Cows were steady to $2.00 lower. A bulk of the cows brought $70 to $101/cwt with some fleshier dairy and beef cows selling to $115/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $70/cwt and down. Dairy breed bull calves were higher, bringing $100 to $300/cwt with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $400.

Beef and Beef Cross calves were higher, selling up to $700/cwt and a few to higher.


The Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report indicated the national breeding herd was 6.08 million head on September 1, down 1 percent from last year, and down 1 percent from the previous quarter. Market hog inventory, at 68.2 million head, was up slightly from last year, and up 2 percent from last quarter. Lean Hog futures managed to trade steady to higher as cattle contracts turned lower early in the week.

The pork cutout value was 21 cents higher last week, averaging $99.46. Cash prices were mostly steady and were holding those levels through mid-week.

The National Daily Direct live hog price average was $59.88 on Wednesday of this week with the carcass base price of $76.62/cwt. Last week’s estimated harvest was 2.537 million, 6,000 more than the previous week and 18,000 less than last year. Harvest is still running 1.3% higher year-to-date. Feeder pig prices have been on the rise recently, with the 40 pound composite average ending last week at $40.99.


Prices for fed lambs were mixed last week. Feeder lambs were mixed. Last week’s net carcass value was down slightly last week at $458.34 and that compares to $492.05 a year ago.

Legs and shoulder primals did show strength, along with ground lamb. All other primals trended lower.

Estimated sheep and lamb harvest last week was 32,000 head and that is 3,000 head below both the previous week and the same week last year. Market lambs were mixed from $150 to $185/cwt.