Seasonal Demand For Lamb Has Begun

The following meat market update was 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. Edited by Mid-West Farm Report.

Cattle

Last week’s estimated beef harvest was 608,000 head. That makes it 14,000 head below the previous week and 17,000 less than last year. Each week this year, weekly fed cattle harvest totals have been higher than last year, with cow harvest trailing last year.

Cow prices are reflecting the lower supply and have been higher in recent weeks. The Choice beef cutout was 5 cents higher last week to average $294.37 and was higher at mid-week this week. The average retail price of beef in January was $8.08/pound, about 7 cents higher than December and 51 cents higher than January 2023. Retail beef is now 33% higher than in January 2020.

The USDA will release a Cattle on Feed Report this Friday. Trade guesses put the number of cattle on feed equal to this time last year but are expecting placements to show an 11% decrease from last January. Feeder cattle prices experienced a period of price correction the end of 2023 and were lower to start the year but have since been moving higher.

Cattle Prices

Fed cattle prices were higher at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets. High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $170 to $175/cwt with some lots reported from $175 to $185/cwt. Choice steers and heifers ranged from $160 to $169/cwt, with mixed grading and those likely to grade Select bringing $152 to $160/cwt. Holstein steers were steady to higher. High grading steers brought $150 to $158, with some to $160/cwt and a few lots higher. Lower grading steers brought $124 to $149. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $123/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were steady, bringing $126 to $167/cwt, with a few higher.

Cows were higher. A bulk of the cows brought $82 to $109/cwt with some fleshier dairy and beef cows selling to 115/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $82/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were fully steady to higher, bringing $200 to $400/cwt with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $650. Beef and Beef Cross calves were higher selling up to $900/cwt. 

Hogs

Cash hogs were $1.50 higher last week and were higher the middle of this week. Wholesale pork prices were higher last week, with the cutout value up $2.36 to average $88.39. All primals showed strength except for bellies, and they were steady. Retail pork prices averaged $4.79 in January, 3 cents lower than in December and unchanged from a year ago. Pork prices are currently 25% higher than in January 2020.

Hogs harvest last week was estimated at 2.599 million head, 63,000 fewer than the previous week and 69,000 more than the same week last year.

Pork exports have been strong but were the largest on record last week. Exports of 75,900 metric tons were up 82 percent from the previous week and up noticeably from the prior four-week average. The destinations were primarily to Mexico, China, South Korea, the Philippines, and Japan.

Lamb

Lamb prices were higher last week with traditional lambs called $12/cwt higher. Seasonal demand has begun in preparation for Easter. Fed lamb prices are currently higher than this time last year and above the five-year average.

Harvest was estimated to be 39,000 for the second week in a row and 3,000 head more than a year ago. The lamb cutout was $471.47 last Friday, up from $468.53 the previous week. Market lambs were steady at $140 to $188/cwt.