Cattle Outlook: Cattle Prices Continue To Go Up

US - It was a great week to be selling cattle. Fed cattle prices are at a record level. The 5-area daily weighted average price for slaughter steers sold through Thursday of this week on a live weight basis was $121.57/cwt, up $7.32 from a week earlier, writes Ron Plain, from the University of Missouri.
calendar icon 4 April 2011
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Ron Plain
Ron Plain

This breaks the record of $117.89 set three weeks earlier. Steers sold on a dressed weight basis this week averaged $199.03/cwt, $11.52 higher than the week before. This week last year, slaughter steer prices averaged $96.24/cwt live and $155.77/cwt dressed.

On Friday morning the choice boxed beef carcase cutout value was $189.30/cwt, up $3.39 for the week and also a new record high. However, the select carcase cutout was down 54 cents from the previous Friday to $185.11 per hundred pounds of carcase weight. The choice-select spread has been quite small in recent weeks. The jump in choice value this week indicates a boost in demand for quality beef.

The government says that the unemployment rate dropped 0.1 per cent to 8.8 per cent in March. The economy added 216 thousand jobs during March. Continued economic growth is needed if cattle and beef prices are to remain high.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 640,000 head, up 1.3 per cent from the week before and up 1.4 per cent compared to the same week last year. Steer carcase weights averaged 829 pounds during the week ending March 19. That was unchanged from the week before, but nine pounds heavier than a year ago.

The record high prices for fed cattle pushed feeder cattle prices higher. Cash bids for feeder cattle around the country this week were mostly steady to $6 higher with a few reports as much as $10 higher. Oklahoma City prices were $1 to $5 higher than the previous week with price ranges for medium and large frame #1 steers: 400-450# $171-$181, 450-500# $159.50-$167.50, 500-550# $155-$164.50, 550-600# $152-$159, 600-650# $147.75-$155, 650-700# $135-$146.75, 700-750# $132.75-$138.25, 750-800# $129-$134, 800-900# $124-$132.75 and 900-1000# $120-$125/cwt.

The April fed cattle futures contract ended the week at $122.075/cwt, up from $118.60 a week ago. The June contracted closed out the week at $121.25/cwt. The August contract settled at $122.60 and October contract closed above $126.00/cwt.

Seasonally, fed cattle prices usually decline from early spring into mid summer. The futures market is predicting steady prices through summer then some increase in the fall.

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