Following last week’s large volume of cash cattle trade, packers have plenty of cattle around them and were less active in the cash market for the week ending May 12. That and other fundamental factors—the seasonal trends in the fed cattle market and looming supplies chief among them—saw cash prices down as much as $4 per cwt in some areas on lighter volume.
The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 216,462 head, compared with about 225,305 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 119,383 head, compared with about 144,038 head the previous week. The national cash sales this week include about 40,047 head of 15 to 30-day delivery, along with 49,000 head the previous week.
The Five Area figures are important because this region accounts for as much as 80% of fed cattle market activity each week. The Five Area region is Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico; Kansas; Nebraska; Colorado; and Iowa-Minnesota.
The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 645,000 head, compared with 619,000 head the same week last year. The current year-to-date total is about 281,000 head higher than last year and 894,000 head higher than the same period in 2016, so we’ve had two years of big volume increases in total cattle slaughter.
Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 41,000 head, compared with about 39,000 head the previous week. The packers have about 201,000 head of forward contracts for May along with about 215,000 head for June.
Now looking at the prices, the weekly weighted average cash steer price for the Five Area region was $121.65 per cwt, compared with $124.81 the previous week, $3.16 lower for the week. The Five Area weighted average cash dressed steer price was $191.99, compared with $193.65 the previous week, which was $1.66 lower. The Five Area weighted average formula price was $198.95, compared with $196.03 the previous week, making it $2.92 higher.
The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending April 28 was 850 pounds, 6 pounds lower than the previous week but above the 847 pounds the same week last year, continuing the run of higher carcass weights than last year. This is the time of year when weights drop because of increased numbers of calf feds entering the harvest mix.
The Choice-Select spread was $22.28 on Friday, compared with $18.81 the previous week and a $22.18 spread last year. Last year this spread jumped to $30 in June so we will watch it closely.