Fed Cattle Recap | A slow, rough market

A slow week in the fed cattle market was topped by a Cattle on Feed report that really put the brakes on market activity.

Ed Czerwien, Market Reporter

May 30, 2018

Memorial Day is behind us and grilling season has officially kicked off across the country. Beef demand both here at home and across the globe is exceptional. That’s the upside of the market. But for the week ending May 26, it seems the market could only focus on the downside.

The feedlot cattle trades were slow until after the Cattle on Feed report was published, then prices dropped quite a bit along with a big drop in cash sales volume.

The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 224,307 head, compared with about 230,545 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 46,278 head, compared with about 96,657 head the previous week. The national cash sales this week include only about 18,900 head of 15 to 30-day delivery, but the 90,000 head from the previous two weeks are being delivered now. 

Now looking at the prices, the weekly weighted average cash steer price for the Five Area region was $110.06 per cwt, compared with $114.73 the previous week, which was $4.67 lower for the week. Last year it was $131.50 this same week after topping out at $144 a few weeks earlier.

The weighted average cash dressed steer price for the Five Area region was $178.33 per cwt, compared with $184.02 the previous week, down $5.69.     

The Five Area weighted average formula price was $192.07 per cwt, compared with $198.83 the previous week, making it $6.76 lower.

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 647,000 head, compared to 623,000 head the same week last year. Current year-to-date total about 368,000 head higher than last year, but over 1 million head higher than the same period in 2016. So the trade has enjoyed two years of big volume increases. 

However, we have plenty of beef to sell. The latest USDA meat production report for May 25 showed year-to-date production totals 364 million pounds of beef higher than last year when you add the increased carcass weights and bigger slaughter numbers. 

The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending May 12 was 848 pounds, 1 pound lower than the previous week. But that compares with 836 pounds the same week last year. So we’re running 12 pounds heavier for the week, along with many weeks that were up to 20 pounds higher than last year. 

While 12 to 20 more pounds per carcass doesn’t sound like much, when you add it to the total steer numbers it represents adding roughly 5,000 to 7,000 more 800-pound carcasses every week, along with the increase in heifers in the slaughter mix.

The Choice-Select spread was $22.81 on Friday, compared with $23.79 the previous week and a $27.15 spread last year. Last year this spread jumped to $30 in June.


About the Author(s)

Ed Czerwien

Market Reporter

Ed Czerwien is a market analyst in Amarillo, Texas. From the heart of Cattle Feeding Country, Ed follows the cattle and wholesale markets to keep beef producers up-to-date on the market moves that affect them. He previously worked with USDA as a Market News reporter. Ed is now semi-retired and continues to work with cattle trade analysis.

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