Fed Cattle Recap | Packers pay up

The cash market for fed cattle improved as the week progressed, ranging from $1 to $1.20 on higher cash sales volume.

Ed Czerwien, Market Reporter

May 19, 2020

Packers stepped up for the week ending May 16, paying more for fed cattle and moving more volume. Packing plants remain COVID-bound and fed cattle continue to back up in feedlots. However, packers are slowly beginning to increase production and we should see higher harvest figures in the weeks to come.

It will take time, perhaps a lot of time, before the backlog of fed cattle is reduced. Will packers continue to provide incentive for feeders to keep the chain moving? Only time will tell.

The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 134,421 head for the week ending May 16, compared with about 146,000 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 85,933 head, compared with about 55,000 head the previous week. 

Now looking at prices, the Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price for the week was $112.31 per cwt, which was $7.81 higher compared with the previous week. Last year the same week it was $116.65, which was about $4 lower than the previous week. However, the current Five Area weighted average live formula price was $114.07 for the week.

The weighted average cash dressed steer price was $179.65 per cwt, which was $19.80 higher. The Five Area weighted average formula price was $166.21, $5.05 higher

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest for the week ending May 16 was 499,000 head, which compares with 662,000 head the same week last year, so six weeks of well over 100,000 to 200,000 head lower each week than last year but increasing each week lately.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending May 2 was 893 pounds, which was 2 pounds higher than the previous week and 41 pounds higher than the 852 pounds the same week last year. 

We typically see carcass weights begin to back off in the spring. That was the case last year, when weights for the corresponding week in 2019 were 2 pounds lower than the previous week. But 2020 is anything but typical and it’s likely we will see carcass weights continue to increase as more and more fed cattle back up in feedlots.

The Choice-Select spread was $15.26 on Friday, May 15, compared with $11.89 the previous week and a $12.03 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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