Cattle Outlook: February Retail Choice Beef Prices Highest Since November

March 21, 2016 09:55 AM

By: Ron Plain and Scott Brown University of Missouri Extension

USDA's March Cattle on Feed report says there were 0.8% more cattle on feed on March 1 than a year ago. February placements were up 10.3% and February marketings were up 4.9%. There was one extra day this February because of leap year. The average of the pre-release trade estimates were for February placements to be up 9.0%, February marketings to be up 4.6%, and March 1 on feed to be up 0.4%.

The average retail price of choice beef during February was $5.986 per pound. That was 1.1 cents higher than a month earlier, but 28.4 cents lower than a year earlier. February retail choice beef prices were the highest since November. The average grocery store price of all fresh beef was $5.792 per pound in February.

The 5 area average live price for slaughter steers was $135/cwt in February. That was up 50 cents from January, but down $24.90 from February 2015. February fed cattle prices were the highest since September.

Beef cutout values were higher this week. This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $232.29/cwt, up $8.17 from the previous Friday, but down $12.09 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $223.31/cwt, up $8.06 from last week, but down $21.25 from a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were higher this week in light volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $140.52/cwt, up $4.52 from last week's average, but down $20.98 from a year ago. The 5-area average dressed steer price averaged $224.37/cwt, up $6.28 from the week before, but down $30.91 from a year ago.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 545,000 head, up 1.7% from last week and up 4.8% from a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on March 5 was 888 pounds, up 1 pound from the week before and up 12 pounds from a year ago. This was the 90th consecutive week with steer weights above the year-ago level.

Prices at the Oklahoma City Stockyards this week were mostly $3 to $6 higher on feeder steers and even stronger on calves compared to last week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $231-$249.50, 450-500# $213-$223, 500-550# $194-$211.50, 550-600# $185-$201, 600-650# $179.50-$191, 650-700# $169.50-$184, 700-750# $153.50-$174.50, 750-800# $147-$162.50, 800-900# $143.50-$159 and 900-1000# $140-$151.75/cwt.

The April live cattle futures contract settled at $139.82/cwt today, up 2 cents for the week. June fed cattle settled at $129.10/cwt, up 55 cents from the previous week. The August contract ended the week at $123.32/cwt, up 12 cents from the previous Friday. March feeder cattle ended the week at $163.22/cwt, up 82 cents from a week earlier. April futures lost 52 cents this week to close at $162.20/cwt. May feeder cattle settled at $160.70/cwt and August closed out the week at $159.55/cwt.

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