The gift that keeps on giving—that’s how cattle feeders might explain the fed cattle market for the end of December and the beginning of the New Year. As noted in our final report for 2018, Santa gave cattle feeders the welcome gift of a strong market to end the year.
While there are some fundamental reasons for that beyond the jolly ‘ol elf, history and price charts tell us that typically, the fed cattle market begins its run-up to spring highs after the first of the year. Are we seeing the beginning of that seasonal run? Time will tell.
Looking first at trade volume, the Five Area formula sales volume totaled 188,605 head for the week ending January 5, compared with about 179,421 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 101,736 head, compared with about 67,725 head the previous week.
Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 30,000 head for the week and packers have about 186,000 head in the pipeline for January. National cash sales this week include 31,893 head of 15- to 30-day delivery and 20,326 head last week.
Now looking at prices, the weekly weighted average cash steer price for the Five Area region was $122.55 per cwt, compared with $122.52 the previous week, 3 cents higher for the week.
The weighted average cash dressed steer price for the Five Area region was $194.64 per cwt, compared with $194.25 the previous week, which was 39 cents higher.
The Five Area weighted average formula price was $192.76 per cwt, compared with $190.29 the previous week, making it $2.47 higher.
The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 520,000 head and that compares with 545,000 head the same week last year.
The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending December 22 is not available because of the government shutdown of USDA NASS. The last USDA number we have shows carcass weights at 896 pounds for the week ending December 9. However, with recent winter weather throughout much of the cattle feeding belt, it’s likely that carcass weights are declining a bit.
The Choice-Select spread was $6.85 on Friday, compared with $6.89 the previous week and a $7.19 spread last year.