Largest Lamb Harvest Total So Far in 2023

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.


Pressure on the futures and lackluster Holiday wholesale activity is taking a toll on the cash market. All classes of cattle were lower last week. Fed cattle were $2.40 lower and are $10/cwt lower than five weeks ago. Auction markets were reporting lower fed cattle prices to start this week. Futures contracts, especially Feeder Cattle had a tough week. Live cattle managed to gain back some of the earlier week losses by Friday.

It appears retail needs are being met at current production levels. Rib Primals did show some strength, but they, too, have turned lower. The Choice beef cutout value overall was up $1.14 for the week, averaging $297.78, but lost ground this week. The cutout had dropped to $290.56 by Thursday.

Last week’s estimated harvest of 635,000 head was 97,000 head more than the previous holiday shortened work week, and 25,000 below the same week last year. Heifers have been averaging about 32% of fed cattle harvest weekly. Lower cattle prices have helped improve packer margins, but given current market fundamentals, they are unlikely to be aggressive and increase production in the near term. Carcass weights have been increasing as harvest pace slows

Cattle Prices

Fed cattle prices were steady to weak to $2 lower. High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $167 to $170/cwt with some higher. Choice steers and heifers ranged from $160 to $167/cwt. with mixed grading and those likely to grade Select bringing $150 to $169/cwt. Holstein steers were low, bringing $148 to $156/cwt with some lots to $160/cwt. Lower grading steers brought $124 to $147. Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $123/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were bringing $126 to $164/cwt with a few higher.

Cows were $2 to $4 lower. A bulk of the cows brought $59 to $87/cwt with some fleshier dairy and beef cows selling to $100/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $58/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were mostly steady, bringing $100 to $300/cwt with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $390. Beef and Beef Cross calves were lower, selling up to $675/cwt.


Cash hogs were $2.40 lower last week, which is not unusual for the week after Thanksgiving. The pork cutout held together, though, to average $84.98, a drop of just 6 cents. Ribs, hams, and butts were higher last week. Hams were lower to open this week, but butts and ribs held and loin primals moved higher.

The hog supply is not letting up, with last week’s estimated harvest of 2.704 million hogs. That total is 479,000 more than Thanksgiving week and 121,000 more than a year ago. Last week’s harvest will hopefully keep hog weights in check. Live weights have been creeping higher, but still lower than this time last year.


Last week saw a large harvest of sheep and lambs – the estimate of 42,000 was 16,000 head higher than the holiday shortened workweek and 7,000 higher than a year ago. It is the highest harvest total so far in 2023. A run-up in production is not uncommon this time of year.

Market lambs were steady to $3.00/cwt higher last week. Last year saw a sharp decline in fed lamb prices. Market lamb prices are higher than last year and the five-year average currently.

Retail activity was sharply lower last week with fewer grocers running lamb specials. This could be a lull before more sales are run leading up to the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays. The lamb cutout value was 82 cents lower than the previous Friday at $464.34.