Cattle Prices Remain Steady

The following report was prepared and written by Jeff Swenson, DATCP’s livestock and meat specialist the week of 11/19. 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.

Cattle

The numbers from the November 17 USDA Cattle on Feed report were within the expected range. The total on feed as of November 1 was 1.7% higher than last year, while cattle placed into feedlots during October were 3.8% above a year ago. It is true the cowherd has shrunk, but calves are still being pulled ahead due to dry conditions in parts of the country. Additionally, a large number of beef breed heifers are being marketed and imports of feeder cattle from Mexico have also increased.

The slower harvest pace has also caused an increase in cattle weights, adding more beef to the market. Last week’s estimated harvest of 636,000 head was 18,000 head fewer than the week before and 36,000 below the same week last year. Year-to-date beef production is 5.3% below last year, while slaughter is running 4.7% behind 2022.

Cattle Prices

Fed cattle prices were mostly steady last week. High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $168 to $173/cwt with highs of $180/cwt. Choice steers and heifers ranged from $160 to $167/cwt. with mixed grading and those likely to grade Select bringing $150 to $160/cwt. Holstein steers were steady, bringing $150 to $159/cwt with some lots from $159 to $162. Lower grading steers brought $125 to $150. Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $125/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were bringing $126 to $168/cwt.

Cows were steady mixed. A bulk of the cows brought $60 to $94/cwt with some fleshier dairy and beef cows selling to $110/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $60/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were steady, bringing $100 to $300/cwt with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $425. Beef and Beef Cross calves were lower, selling up to $700/cwt.

Hogs

The retail price of pork was unchanged in October compared to last year, averaging $5.04/pound. While bacon prices fell 5.1%, pork chops were 6.1% higher. Wholesale prices have softened with the pork cutout value $1.41 lower last week to average $87.05. The cutout started this week lower, but loin primals were higher. Pork was featured less by retailers last week, although more specials were run on hams and processed items.

Last week’s harvest was estimated to be 2.649 million, 72,000 hogs higher than the week prior and 51,000 more than the same week last year. Year-to-date harvest is 1.5% higher than last year, while pork production is up less than half a percent. Cash hogs were 80 cents lower last week.

Reports from China indicate pork supplies are outpacing demand. The country’s zero-COVID policy slowed pork purchases there and they have yet to recover.

Lamb

The cash lamb market was called higher last week with traditional lambs steady to $5.00 higher and others $10 to $40/cwt higher. Lamb and mutton production year-to-date is 2.4% lower than last year, even as harvest of sheep and lambs is up 4%. Last week’s estimate was 39,000 sheep and lambs, 1,000 more than the previous week, and 2,000 head higher than last year.

The net lamb carcass cutout fell $3.73 to $467.71. Lamb features at retail were 256.76% higher last week. Lamb features offered more ad space for Racks, Loin Chops, and Legs.

Market lambs were lower from $160 to $171/cwt with a few lots selling higher.