The cash market for fed cattle has held on, often just by the hairs on its chiny chin chin, slowly losing a dollar here and a dollar there, but avoiding a major downturn. In spite of that, cash prices have dropped around $10 per cwt since January as fear and confusion surrounding the spread of the coronavirus takes hold in the market.
That big dip happened the week ending Feb. 29. The feedlot cattle trades were mostly $4-$5 per cwt lower and cash sales volume was slightly higher than the previous week because of much more 15- to 30-day delivery numbers.
The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 252,165 head, compared to about 243,000 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 76,997 head, compared to about 74,000 head the previous week.
As a reminder, the Five Area prices we use are a combination of feedyard sales in Texas-Oklahoma-New Mexico; Kansas, Nebraska; Colorado; and Iowa-Minnesota. These states market more than 80% of the fed cattle in the country.
Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 41,000 head for the week. The packers have 193,000 head lined up for March along with 234,000 head for April. National cash sales this week included 30,670 head of 15- to 30-day delivery, the biggest number in a long time and significantly higher than the 9,800 from the previous week.
Now looking at prices, the Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price for the week ending Feb. 29 was $114.85 per cwt, which was $4.86 lower. Last year the same week it was $128.22, which was almost 2 higher that week last year.
The weighted average cash dressed steer price was $184.78 per cwt, which was $5.29 lower than the previous week. The Five Area weighted average formula price was $191.37 per cwt, which was $1.36 lower.
The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest for the week was 627,000 head, which compares with 609,000 head the same week last year. During the last seven weeks this year, total cattle harvest was about 174,000 head higher than the same weeks last year.
The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending Feb. 15 was 905 pounds, which was 2 pounds higher than the previous week and compared to 879 pounds the same week last year, which was 6 pounds lower than the previous week.
The Choice-Select spread was $6.39 on Friday, Feb. 28, compared with $3.39 the previous week and a $4.50 spread last year.