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Cattle Outlook: No Surprises

14:39PM Jun 20, 2014

Fewer cattle and higher prices are a continuing trend with the Cattle on Feed Report.
By: Ron Plain and Scott Brown, University of Missouri

The Cattle on Feed Report had no surprises this month. USDA says there were 1.6% fewer cattle in large feedlots at the start of June than a year ago. The pre-release trade estimate was for the on-feed number to be down 1.5%. Placements of cattle into feed lots were down 7.0% in May while marketings were down 4.3%.

Hong Kong has agreed to lift the last of its restriction on beef imports from the U.S. that were imposed in 2003 due to BSE.

The average price of choice beef in grocery stores during May was a record $5.913 per pound. That is up 68.7 cents from a year ago and up 4.2 cents from the old record set the month before. The average price for all fresh beef was $5.45 per pound in May.

USDA says the 5 market average live price for slaughter steers in May was $143.60/cwt. That was down $3.60 from the month before, but up $16.10 compared to May 2013.

USDA said this week that 17% of U.S. pastures were in poor or very poor condition on June 15, down 2 points from the previous week and down from 23% poor or very poor a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were steady this week on good sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $149.04/cwt, down 33 cents from last week's average, but up $27.67 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers was $236.94/cwt, up 56 cents for the week and up $43.37 from the same week last year.

Wholesale beef prices were higher this week. This morning, the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $240.81/cwt, up $9.28 from the previous Friday and up $41.27 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $233.28/cwt on the morning report, up $9.39 from last week and up $46.87 from a year earlier.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 613,000 head, up 1.3% from the previous week, but down 7.1% from the corresponding week last year. The average dressed weight for steers slaughtered the week ending on June 7 was 850 pounds, up 6 pounds from the week before, but down 3 pounds compared to the same week last year.

Feeder cattle prices at this week's Oklahoma City auction were $6 to $10 higher than the week before. This week's prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight were: 400-450# $264-$280, 450-500# $243-$276, 500-550# $238-$268, 550-600# $228-$254, 600-650# $209-$227, 650-700# $201-$225, 700-750# $200-$218, 750-800# $195.50-$214, 800-900# $191-$209, and 900-1000# $176-$196/cwt.

Cattle futures ended the week a bit below the record highs set the previous week. The June live cattle futures contract closed at $147.55/cwt today, down 5 cents from last week's close. August fed cattle settled at $146.32/cwt, down 30 cents for the week. The October contract ended the week at $149.15/cwt. December closed at $150.50/cwt. The August feeder cattle contract ended the week at $206.87/cwt, down $1.28 for the week. The September feeder cattle contract settled at $208.17, down 55 cents from the previous Friday.