The week of May 20 was a study in contrasts for the fed cattle market. On one hand, the cash trade ended the week $3 to $5 per cwt lower. It is the second week in a row with lower cash prices; last week ended $6 to $8 lower compared with the previous week.
Then, on the other hand, the Choice-Select spread reached for the stars, ending the week at an astounding $25.75, about $3.50 higher than the previous week and significantly higher than the $17.54 recorded last year. What's more, the spread topped out at $26.24 on May 17, setting a new record high by besting the previous record of $25.57 set June 13, 2016.
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The weekly weighted average cash steer price for the Five Area region, which includes the major feeding areas of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa, was $134.26, compared with $137.28 the previous week, for a drop back of $3.02.
The Five Area weighted average cash dressed steer price for was $212.62, compared with $220.33 the previous week, about $7.71 lower.
Estimated total federally-inspected cattle harvest was 602,000 head, compared with 590,000 the same week last year, only 12,000 head over last year. Total year-to-date harvest is 631,000 head over last year
The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 74,925 head, compared with about 79,512 the previous week.
The Five Area average formula price was $228.18, compared with $224.62 the previous week, a $3.56 jump. Part of that increase is due to the widening spread between Choice and Select which pays more money to the Choice cattle. Five area formula sales totaled 165,947 head, compared with about 161,712 the previous week.
Nationally reported forward contracted cattle harvest was about 48,000 head, compared with 72,000 head the previous week. Packers have more than 244,000 head of forward contracts available for May and 294,000 for June.
The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending May 6 was 15 pounds lower at 832 pounds, compared with 862 pounds last year.