Cattle Outlook: What Will 2016 Be Like?

03:33PM May 18, 2015
BT Beef Grocery 3
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The May WASDE gave its first forecast of 2016 beef production and prices.
By: Ron Plain and Scott Brown, University of Missouri

USDA expects 2016 beef production to be up 1.0% from this year and they expect this year's beef production to be up 0.1% from last year. Slaughter steers averaged $154.56/cwt live in 2014. They are looking for prices to be $4-12 higher this year and about the same in 2016 as this year.

USDA expects beef imports to decline 9.5% and beef exports to increase 2% in 2016. This will keep the domestic per capita beef supply very tight and support prices. USDA is forecasting 2016 per capita beef consumption at 53.9 pounds of retail weight; that will be the lowest since 1952.

Fed cattle prices this week were higher on light volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $160.82/cwt, up $1.05 from last week's average and up $13.87 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price this week for steers was $256.55/cwt, up $1.51 for the week and up $22.49 compared to the same week last year.

This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $262.69/cwt, up $4.49 from the previous Friday and up $35.97 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $250.52/cwt this morning, up $3.72 from last week and up $33.52 from a year ago. The choice-select price spread is wider than normal at $12.18/cwt.

Cattle slaughter this week totaled 569,000 head, up 0.4% from the week before, but down 4.5% from the same week last year. Year-to-date cattle slaughter is down 7.2% and beef production is down 4.9%. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on May 2 was 865 pounds, down 1 pound from the week before, but up 25 pounds compared to the same week last year. Weights have been up for 46 consecutive weeks.

USDA rated 56% of pastures in the 48 contiguous states as being in good or excellent condition on May 10. That is up from 53% good or excellent last week and 41% good or excellent a year ago.

Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were mostly steady to $3 higher this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $295-$329, 450-500# $286-$314, 500-550# $272-$299, 550-600# $247.50-$285, 600-650# $240-$256, 650-700# $228.50-$242.50, 700-750# $221-$231.50, 750-800# $213.50-$225.50, 800-900# $192.50-$215.50, and 900-1000#, $189-$201.75/cwt.

Cattle futures were higher this week. The June live cattle futures contract settled at $152.52/cwt today, up $1.02 for the week. August fed cattle settled at $150.80/cwt, up 98 cents from the previous week. October fed cattle gained 47 cents this week to settle at $151.67/cwt.

The May feeder cattle contract ended the week at $219.00/cwt, up $3.13 for the week. August feeders ended the week 78 cents higher at $218.40/cwt.