The myriad factors affecting the cash market for fed cattle continue unabated, meaning volatility and uncertainty are the only things that are certain. Packers paid up for fed cattle the past several weeks, but with packing plants finding their new normal and more product flowing through the marketing chain, wholesale prices are beginning to fall.
That, combined with somewhere around a million head of heavyweight cattle backed up in feedyards, are the market factors to watch as we head into the summer grilling season. Cattle feeders still have a long and winding road ahead of them, it seems.
The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 128,933 head for the week ending May 30, compared with about 126,000 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 97,930 head, compared with about 66,000 head the previous week. Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 38,000 head for the week.
The Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price was $115.71 per cwt, which was $1.35 lower compared with the previous week. Last year the same week it was $115.74, about steady with the week prior. However, the current Five Area weighted average live formula price was $121.61 for the week.
The weighted average cash dressed steer price was $183.83 per cwt, 48 cents higher. The Five Area weighted average formula price was $188, which was $9.83 higher.
The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest for the week ending May 30 was 524,000 head during a holiday week, which compares with 588,000 head the same week last year. So we’re starting to get closer to last year’s harvest levels.
The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending May 16 was 901 pounds, 5 pounds higher than the previous week and 50 pounds above the 849 pounds seen the same week a year ago.
Keep in mind that when you add 50 pounds per carcass, that is the same as adding over 27,000 more 900-pound carcasses each week, even with lower slaughter numbers. We’ll see carcass weights stay record high until the backlog of heavyweight fed cattle begins to clear. That will take some time.
The Choice-Select spread was $23.27 on Friday, May 30, compared with $22.56 the previous week and a $15.52 spread last year.