Since the fire that shuttered Tyson’s Finney County, Kan., beef plant, the fed cattle market has made a remarkable rebound. Yes, the market cratered in the immediate aftermath of the fire, which was expected. Since then, fed prices tacked on $25 in just 15 weeks through December – and completely reversed the packer margin trend, according to Nevil Speer.
That trend has generally continued as we make our way through January—cash prices trending higher on generally good numbers. For the week ending Jan. 18, the cash trade for fed cattle was mostly steady, but some lower bids were seen in the Western Cornbelt. Cash sales volume was higher than the previous week.
We’ll have plenty of fed cattle to work through for the first half of the year. However, strong demand both here and abroad, new trade deals in the works and other factors give cause for optimism.
Looking first at volume, the Five Area formula sales volume totaled 238,630 head, compared with about 242,000 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 75,086 head, compared with about 58,000 head the previous week.
Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 44,000 head for the week. The packers have 195,000 head for January. National cash sales for the week included 21,157 head of 15- to 30-day delivery and 13,000 head from the previous week.
Now looking at prices, the Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price for the week ending Jan. 18 was $124.03, 44 cents lower than the previous week. The same week last year, the cash price was $123.98 per cwt, which was just a little higher than the week before. So both years are very close now.
The weighted average cash dressed steer price was $199.04 per cwt, which was 70 cents lower.
The Five Area weighted average formula price was $199.58 per cwt, which was $2.30 higher.
The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 631,000 head, which compared to 626,000 head the same week last year.
The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending Jan. 4 was 912 pounds, 7 pounds higher than the previous week. That compares with 892 pounds the same week last year, which was 4 lower than the week prior. This is now the highest new year starting weight in the past 15 years.
The Choice-Select spread was $1.42 on Friday Jan. 17, compared with $3.49 the previous week and a $3.70 spread last year. This spread is always low this time of the year because of retail sales of Select round and chuck products.