Cattle Outlook: Four Month Beef Price Fall

October 19, 2015 10:18 AM

The choice retail beef price declined for the fourth consecutive month to $6.23 per pound in September.
By: Ron Plain and Scott Brown, University of Missouri

This is the longest string of monthly declines since June-September 2005, and the first month that choice retail beef prices have been below the year ago level since February 2010. Even after some decline, the retail price is still higher than in any month prior to August 2014.

USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service released their biannual livestock world markets and trade circular last Friday. It projects beef imports by all foreign markets to grow by 5.5 percent in 2016 after a decline of 8.6 percent in 2015. The U.S. is expected to increase beef exports next year, though they are projected to remain below 2011-2014 levels. U.S. beef exporters continue to work against a stronger U.S. dollar.

Pasture and range conditions declined this week, with 43 percent of U.S. pastures now rated good/excellent. This equals the lowest reading since May 2014. While conditions remain better than the majority of 2011-13, weather developments between now and next summer will play a large role in the extent of beef cow herd rebuilding. The percentage of U.S. area in a drought monitor category has increased from 35 percent in mid-July to 53 percent this week.

Fed cattle prices advanced this week. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $123.20/cwt, up $4.68 from last week but $40.54 lower than a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers gained $8.56 for the week to $198.56/cwt. This is $59.19 lower than last year's dressed price average.

Feeder steers were $7-12 higher at Oklahoma City this week, with steer calves up $15-20. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $232-$253, 450-500# $220-$245, 500-550# $210-$227, 550-600# $201.50-211.50, 600-650# $181-$203.50, 650-700# $173-$204, 700-750# $189.50-$200, 750-800# $190.25-$194.75, 800-900# $177-$190 and 900-1000#, $172-$180/cwt.

Cattle slaughter for the week came in at 576 thousand head, up 3.4% from last week and 2.1% higher than the same week last year. Year to date cattle slaughter trails 2014 by 6.0%. The average dressed weight for steers slaughtered the week ending October 3 continued heavy at 924 pounds, 4 pounds higher than the prior week and 28 pounds heavier than the same week last year.

Boxed beef cutout values jumped this week, with the choice carcass cutout value this morning registering $211.21/cwt, up $8.24 from last Friday but $37.70 below a year ago. The select cutout registered $206.17/cwt, also up $8.24 for the week. This left the choice-select spread unchanged at $5.04/cwt.

The October live cattle futures contract gained $5.18 for the week, closing at $135.95/cwt today. December fed cattle finished at $139.55/cwt, $2.23 higher for the week. The October feeder cattle contract advanced $4.65 this week to end at $193.62/cwt. November feeder cattle finished the week at $190/cwt.

December corn closed today at $3.77/bu, down 14 cents from last Friday.

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