Fed Cattle Recap | Cash prices hang tough

The spot cash market for fed cattle was steady to $1 lower while the weighted average price was slightly lower than last week.

Ed Czerwien, Market Reporter

July 23, 2019

While the summer of 2019 has generally followed seasonal patterns, fed cattle prices have remained stronger than expected. That’s due to a number of factors. Among them were much higher out-front purchases by retailers early this spring, as well as feedyards being current in their marketings, especially in the north and Midwest, continued lighter carcass weights and continued strong beef demand both here and in our export markets.

Will that continue? We’re now into the dog days of summer, so it remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

Looking at the numbers, the Five Area formula sales volume totaled 255,061 head for the week ending July 20, compared with about 242,000 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 77,601 head, compared with about 87,000 head the previous week. 

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 41,000 head for the week. The packers had 191,000 head lined up for July and 226,000 head for August. National cash sales for the week included only about 12,322 head of 15- to 30-day delivery, but also include 12,000 head from the previous week.   

Now looking at prices, the Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price for the week ending July 20 was $113.02 per cwt, which was only 35 cents lower than the previous week.    

The weighted average cash dressed steer price was $183 per cwt, 13 cents higher than the week before.   

The Five Area weighted average formula price was $180.41 per cwt, $2.45 higher.  

The July 20 estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 648,000 head, compared with 635,000 head the same week last year. The current estimated year-to-date total is now 229,000 higher than last year. But it pales in comparison with last year when it was half a million head higher than 2017. And 2017 was close to a million head higher than 2016. 

Total slaughter is creeping up mostly because of more heifers fed and slaughtered now than previous years. That, of course, means fewer heifers being kept in cow herds, which will have a big impact down the road with smaller calf crops.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending July 6 was 861 pounds, 7 pounds higher than the previous week and still lower than the 867 pounds notched the same week last year.         

The Choice-Select spread was $23.91 on Friday, compared with $23.20 the previous week and a $7.17 spread last year.        


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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