Cattle Outlook: Price Rebound

December 28, 2015 10:40 AM

Cattle prices rebounded this past week after a long slide downward.
By: Ron Plain and Scott Brown, University of Missouri

Because Christmas fell on Friday this year, this weekly report only covers market activity through Thursday.

Through Wednesday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $123.43/cwt, up $6.50 from last week's average, but down $38.51 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price this week for steers was $199.58/cwt, up $16.20 for the week, but down $57.38 compared to the same week last year.

The December Cattle on Feed report said that November placements were down 10.8% to the lowest level for the month since USDA began the current data series in 1996. There are two prime causes for the low placements. Cattle feeding losses have been huge this year making feedlots reluctant to buy cattle, and feeder cattle prices have plummeted in recent weeks making backgrounders reluctant to sell on a down market.

November marketings were up 3.9% thanks to one extra slaughter day. The number of steers and heifers on feed at the start of December was down 0.2% compared to a year earlier.

Placements into feedlots continue to include a lot of big cattle. Placement of cattle on feed weighing less than 800 pounds during November was down 13.8% while placement of cattle weighing 800 pounds or more was down 1.1%.

This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $197.63/cwt, up $3.00 from the previous Friday. The select carcass cutout was $189.47/cwt, up $2.78 from last week.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on December 12 was 909 pounds, down 4 pounds from the week before, but up 10 pounds from a year ago. This was the 78th consecutive week with weights above the year-ago level.

There was no feeder cattle auction at Oklahoma City this week, nor will there be one next week, because of the holidays.

Feeder cattle prices at the Joplin Stockyards were $5 to $15 higher this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $197.50-$215, 450-500# $195-$200, 500-550# $181-$196, 550-600# $161-$180, 600-700# $159-$168, 700-800# $147-$153, 800-900# $145-$147 and 900-1000# $137/cwt.

After several weeks of decline, cattle futures were sharply higher this week. The December live cattle futures contract settled at $131.10/cwt today, up $10.95 for the week. February fed cattle settled at $137.025/cwt, up $11.50 from the previous week. The April contract ended the week at $138.025/cwt.

January feeder cattle ended the week at $163.475/cwt, up $14.725 from a week earlier. March futures gained $12.175 this week to close at $160.125/cwt.

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