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Cattle Outlook: New Record Highs

March 29, 2014
Bechtel Ranch Cow Calf
  
 
 

By: Ron Plain and Scott Brown, University of Missouri

Fed cattle prices set new record highs this week. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $152.26/cwt, up $2.16 from a week ago, up $24.50 from a year ago, and up $1.60 from the last week of February which was the old record holder. Steer sales on a dressed basis averaged $243.48/cwt this week, up $3.37 from a week ago and up $40.40 from year ago.

This morning, the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $236.43/cwt, down $4.40 from the previous Friday, but up $47.53 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout is $230.48/cwt, down $4.47 from last week and up $41.66 from last year.

At the end of February, there were 407.1 million pounds of beef in cold storage. That was down 5.2% from the month before, down 16.9% compared to a year ago, and the smallest stocks of frozen beef since the last day of September 2010. Given the record high beef prices in recent weeks, pulling down stocks makes since.

The latest Cattle on Feed report said that February placements were up 14.7% while marketings were down 3.4% giving a March 1 cattle on feed inventory that is down 0.5% compared to last year.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 585,000 head, up 1.7% from the previous week, but down 2.2% from the corresponding week last year. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on March 15 was 856 pounds, down 2 pounds from the week before and the same as 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# $255-$257, 450-500# $220-$251, 500-550# $212-$235, 550-600# $194-$225, 600-650# $186-$204.50, 650-700# $183-$196, 700-750# $175.50-$185, 750-800# $167.25-$179.50, 800-900# $158-$168.75, and 900-1000# $153.25-$161/cwt.

Cattle futures were higher this week. The April live cattle futures contract closed at $146.50/cwt today, up $2.50 from last week's close. June fed cattle settled at $138.35, up $2.23 for the week. August settled at $135.07/cwt, up $1.57 from the previous Friday.

Feeder cattle futures followed fed cattle futures higher. The April feeder cattle contract ended the week at $178.35/cwt, up $3.08 for the week. May feeders closed at $179.50/cwt, up $3.00 from the previous Friday. The August feeder cattle contract gained $3.12 this week to end at $181.02.

Corn futures were higher this week. May corn futures ended the week at $4.92/bushel, up 13 cents from the week before. July corn settled at $4.96/bushel, also 13 cents higher than the previous Friday. The September corn futures contract ended the week at $4.91/bushel.

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