Cash prices for fed cattle were as much as $10 higher.

Ed Czerwien, Market Reporter

May 12, 2020

In the crazy and unpredictable world of the cash market for fed cattle, the week ending May 9 saw a significant uptick in prices paid for cash cattle. Prices improved as the week progressed and ranged from $93 to $115 per cwt, which was up to $10 higher late in the week. Cash sales volume was higher than the previous week.  

Beef plants are beginning to turn the corner and are processing more fed cattle each week. It will take time for plants to ramp up production; meanwhile, cattle will continue to back up in feedyards and there will be less beef for retail sales.

The pressure on the beef marketing chain will soon begin to lessen. However, predicting how prices will respond is anybody’s guess. But breaking the bottleneck in harvesting fed cattle and putting beef on grocery store shelves will be positive for all involved.

The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 145,945 head for the week, compared with about 147,000 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 55,105 head, compared to about 46,000 head the previous week. 

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 39,000 head for the week. 

Now looking at prices, the Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price was $104.50 per cwt, which was $5.97 higher compared with the previous week. Last year the same week it was $120.34, which was about $3 lower than the week prior. However, the current Five Area weighted average live formula price was $106.84 this week.

The weighted average cash dressed steer price was $159.85 per cwt, which was $5.49 higher. The Five Area weighted average formula price was $161.16, which was $3.45 lower.

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 452,000 head, which compares with 667,000 head the same week last year, so five weeks of well over 100,000 to 200,000 head lower each week than last year.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending April 25 was 891 pounds, 2 pounds higher than the previous week and significantly higher than the 854 pounds the same week last year. Last year’s weight was 3 pounds lower than the previous week.

This year, with the backlog of market-ready cattle in feedyards growing by the day because of plant slowdowns, carcass weights will continue to rise. 

The Choice-Select spread was $11.89 on Friday, May 8, compared with $20.32 the previous week and a $13.65 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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