Cattle Outlook: Sixth Month of Record Fed Cattle Prices

11:24AM Apr 20, 2014
Herefords Feedlot
( Wyatt Bechtel )

Fed cattle continue pace with a sixth month of record highs.
By: Ron Plain and Scott Brown, University of Missouri

At $149.80/cwt, the 5 area average price for slaughter steers during March was record high for the sixth consecutive month. The March price was up $3.80 from the month before and up $23.30 from March 2013.

For the second consecutive month, retail beef prices were record high in March. The average price of choice beef in grocery stores was $5.72 per pound, up 14.5 cents from the month before and up 45.7 cents from a year ago. All fresh beef averaged $5.362 per pound in March, up 9.1 cents from the record set the month before and up 44.4 cents from March 2013.

Fed cattle sales volume was back up this week after two weeks with light sales. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $147.08/cwt, down $2.24 from last week, but up $21.85 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers was $234.70/cwt, down $5.59 for the week but up $34.70 from the same week last year.

After three weeks of decline, boxed beef prices were higher this week. This morning the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $226.10/cwt, up $3.83 from the previous Friday. The select carcass cutout is $215.08/cwt, up $2.12 from last week. The choice-select price spread this morning is $11.03. In recent days, the spread has been the largest since December.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 568,000 head, down 0.9% from the previous week and down 7.6% from the corresponding week last year.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on April 5 was 851 pounds, down 1 pound from the week before, but up 4 pounds from a year earlier.

Feeder cattle prices at this week's Oklahoma City auction were mostly steady. This week's prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight were: 400-450# $223-$251, 450-500# $211-$233.50, 500-550# $208-$222, 550-600# $205.50-$215, 600-650# $199-$216, 650-700# $187-$200.50, 700-750# $177-$186.50, 750-800# $172.50-$183, 800-900# $161-$174.25, and 900-1000# $156.50-$162.50/cwt.

Cattle futures were a bit lower this week. Because it is Good Friday, the Chicago futures markets are closed today. The April live cattle futures contract closed at $144.20/cwt yesterday, down 65 cents from last week's close. June fed cattle settled at $134.375, down $1.40 for the week. August settled at $132.825/cwt, down 95 cents from the previous Friday. October cattle closed at $137.375/cwt.

Feeder cattle futures were also lower for the week. The April feeder cattle contract ended the week at $178.55/cwt, down 95 cents for the week. May feeders closed at $178.05/cwt, down $2.02 from the previous Friday. The August feeder cattle contract lost $1.07 this week to end at $181.40/cwt.