Fed Cattle Prices Stronger Than 2020

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.

■ Last week’s estimated cattle harvest of 566,000 head was 11,000 head less than the previous week. With plants being closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, it is a respectable run that shows packers are motivated to move cattle through the pipeline. October harvest was 3.3 percent lower than the same month last year, but 3.2 percent higher year-to-date. Dressed weights are 10 pounds below last year. Beef cow slaughter continues to be higher than a year ago and is 8.4 percent higher year-to-date. Dairy cow harvest is running about one percent higher than 2020 year-to-date. Fed cattle prices were stronger last week and, for the most part, have continued that momentum. Fed beef cattle prices are over $25.00/cwt higher than this time last year, and the $114.00/cwt rut seen most of the summer is in the rearview for now. Whether feedlot operators are in the black at these higher prices is still in question. The Choice beef cutout value was posted at $280.01 on Friday, November 26, 2021 and $270.22 on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

■ Cash hogs were more than $1.00/cwt higher midweek after multiple weeks of consecutive losses. The most recent export sale report shows orders for 45,500 metric tons of U.S. raised pork, the largest total since the end of October. The higher number, along with China accounting for 12,400 metric tons of the total, may at least stabilize Lean Hog futures in the short term. Last week’s harvest estimate of 2.261 million hogs was 368,000 lower than the previous week and 79,000 head lower than the same week last year. October harvest was 7.8 percent lower than last year with year-to-date totals at two percent below 2020. Hog weights were two pounds less than a year ago. It is easy to make the argument that market hog supplies will decrease in the weeks ahead.

■ Lamb and mutton production was up seven percent from October 2020. Sheep harvest totaled 187,300 head, which is three percent above October 2020. The average live weight was 121 pounds, which is up five pounds from October 2020. The number of mature sheep harvested is running 25 percent higher than last year, while lamb and yearling harvest is nearly two percent below levels a year ago.

■ DATCP invites Wisconsin meat processors to apply for new processor grants through January 14, 2022. These grants were proposed by Governor Tony Evers in his 2021-23 biennial budget, and the funds were recently released by the Joint Finance Committee. DATCP will award grants for up to $50,000 for projects up to two years in duration that help expand capacity or increase throughput. Hosted by We R Food Safety in cooperation with DATCP, a virtual informational webinar about the grants and application process, including a question and answer session, will be held Monday, December 6, 2021 at 1 p.m. You can access the session using this link: http://bit.ly/WiscGrant2. The grant application and materials are available at https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Growing_WI/MeatAndLivestockDevelopment.aspx.

■ Choice beef breed steers and heifers at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were sharply higher. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $125.00 to $138.00/cwt with reports of some selling in the mid $140.00s/cwt. Choice and Prime Holstein steers were mostly $1.00 to $2.00 higher at $92.00 to $114.00/cwt. Some packages were still selling to $119.00/cwt with a few packages above. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $70.00 to $92.00/cwt. Dairy x beef steers were mostly $95.00 to $135.00/cwt. Cows were steady to lower at $31.00 to $51.00/cwt. Blemish free cows in fleshier condition sold to $58.00/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $31.00/cwt and down. Dairy breed bull calves were steady to lower, bringing $50.00 to $100.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $165.00/cwt. Beef and beef cross calves were bringing up to $320.00/cwt. Market lambs were selling to $240.00/cwt.