Cattle Outlook: Less Beef in Freezers

June 29, 2015 10:32 AM
Cattle Outlook: Less Beef in Freezers

Freezer beef levels drop from previous month while cattle on feed sees a slight increase.
By: Ron Plain and Scott Brown, University of Missouri

The June Cold Storage report said there were 468.6 million pounds of beef in cold storage at the end of May. That is down 3.2% from the month before, but up 24.1% from a year ago.

USDA's June Cattle on Feed report said there were 10.561 million steers and heifers on feed in large feedlots at the start of June. This was up 0.6% from a year ago, but slightly below the pre-release trade prediction of up 0.9%.

May placements were down 10.2% and May marketings were down 8.3%, due in part to one fewer slaughter day than in May 2014. Marketings were the lowest for any May since USDA started this data series in 1996. Placements were the lowest for any May since 2009. Placements have been below the year-ago level for 7 of last 8 months. This is somewhat due to a small calf crop, but mostly due to reduced heifer placements.

USDA's Crop Progress report said only 9% of pasture and range acres were in poor or very poor condition on June 21. That is the same as the week before and down 7 points from a year ago.

Packer margins improved as fed cattle prices declined and cutout values increased. Fed cattle prices this week were lower on heavy volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $148.68/cwt, down $2.61 from last week's average and down $2.67 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price this week for steers was $238.01/cwt, down $2.19 for the week and down $4.35 compared to the same week last year. Fed cattle prices are below the year-ago level for the first time since September 2013.

This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $254.53/cwt, up $3.69 from the previous Friday and up $8.46 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $249.68/cwt this morning, up $3.89 from last week and up $12.17 from a year ago.

Cattle slaughter this week totaled 555,000 head, up 1.1% from the week before, but down 9.6% from the same week last year.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on June 13 was 869 pounds, up 3 pounds from the week before, up 17 pounds compared to the same week last year and above the year-ago level for a full year - 52 consecutive weeks.

Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were steady to $2 higher this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $289-$319, 450-500# $287-$304, 500-550# $265-$289, 550-600# $245-$274, 600-650# $249-$263.50, 650-700# $231-$257, 700-750# $221-$237.50, 750-800# $222.25-$233, 800-900# $208-$227 and 900-1000#, $200-$215.50/cwt.

Fed cattle futures were lower this week. The June live cattle futures contract settled at $148.40/cwt today, down $3.50 for the week. August fed cattle settled at $148.52/cwt, down $2.15 from the previous week. October fed cattle lost $2.25 this week to settle at $151.00/cwt.

The August feeder cattle contract ended the week at $217.25/cwt, down $6.17 for the week.

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