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The cash market for fed cattle continues to hold its ground, but coronavirus looms.
If it isn’t one thing, it’s a thousand others. We’ve all heard and/or said that many times. And if ever there’s a phrase that applies to the cattle market, that’s it.
The cash trade for fed cattle was mostly steady to firm for the week ending Jan. 25, and volume was higher again than the previous week. That’s been the story for this month. At least so far.
Then fear and panic set in as the coronavirus outbreak in China continues to spread. Futures prices in many commodity markets, including cattle, have reacted. How much spillover we have in the cash market remains to be seen, but bears watching closely.
Looking at volume for the week, Five Area formula sales totaled 245,101 head, compared with about 238,000 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 85,417 head, compared with about 75,000 head the previous week.
Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 46,000 head for the week. The packers have 195,000 head for January. National cash sales for the week included 29,106 head of 15- to 30-day delivery and 21,000 head from the previous week, so packers have 50,000 head available soon.
Now looking at prices, the Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price for the week ending Jan. 25 was $124.30 per cwt, which was 27 cents higher than the week prior. The same week last year it was $123.29, which was just a little lower than the week before, so both years continue very close lately.
The weighted average cash dressed steer price was $198.79 per cwt, which was 25 cents lower.
The Five Area weighted average formula price was $199.21 per cwt, 37 cents lower.
The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 647,000 head, which compares with 608,000 head the same week last year.
The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending Jan. 11 was 904 pounds, 8 pounds lower than the previous week and higher than the 883 pounds the same week last year. That weight was 9 pounds lower than the week prior.
The Choice-Select spread was $3.79 on Friday, Jan. 24, compared with $1.42 the previous week and a $4.98 spread last year.
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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