By: Ron Plain and Scott Brown, University of Missouri
Friday's jobs report was somewhat encouraging. Although the unemployment rate held steady at 6.7%, the economy added 192,000 jobs during March. More people with jobs is positive for meat demand.
Fed cattle sales were extremely light this week. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $151.43/cwt, down 83 cents from last week's record price, but up $23.14 from a year ago. USDA did not report a 5-area average price for dressed steers this week.
Boxed beef prices were sharply lower this week. Friday morning the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $229.17/cwt, down $7.26 from the previous Friday. The select carcass cutout is $218.45/cwt, down $12.03 from last week. The choice select spread is $10.72/cwt, the most since December 16.
Calculations by the Livestock Marketing Information Center estimate cattle feeders turned a profit of $52.13/head for steers slaughtered March. March was the third consecutive profitable month and had the biggest net returns since March 2011.
This week's cattle slaughter totaled 583,000 head, down 0.3% from the previous week and down 2.3% from the corresponding week last year. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on March 22 was 856 pounds, unchanged from the week before and down 2 pounds from a year earlier.
Feeder cattle prices at this week's Oklahoma City auction were mostly steady to $3 higher than the week before. This week's prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight were: 400-450# $224-$246, 450-500# $220-$232.25, 500-550# $213.50-$225.50, 550-600# $199-$216, 600-650# $189-$209.50, 650-700# $185-$193.50, 700-750# $177-$185, 750-800# $171.50-$181, 800-900# $158.25-$172.50, and 900-1000# $156.50-$167/cwt.
Cattle futures were lower this week. The April live cattle futures contract closed at $143.05/cwt today, down $3.45 from last week's close. June fed cattle settled at $134.80, down $3.55 for the week. August settled at $132.27/cwt, down $2.80 from the previous Friday. October cattle closed at $136.90/cwt.
Feeder cattle futures were a bit lower for the week. The April feeder cattle contract ended the week at $177.70/cwt, down 65 cents for the week. May feeders closed at $178.52/cwt, down 98 cents from the previous Friday. The August feeder cattle contract lost 80 cents this week to end at $180.22.
USDA's March planting intentions report predicted 91.691 million acres of corn would be planted this year. That is 3.674 million acres (3.85%) less than last year. Soybean acreage is expected to be up 4.96 million acres (6.5%) to a record 81.493 million. USDA expects 694,000 more acres of cotton, 388,000 more acres of rice, but 341,000 fewer acres of wheat and 1.38 million fewer acres of grain sorghum to be planted than last year.
Corn futures were higher this week. May corn futures ended the week at $5.02/bushel, up 10 cents from the week before.