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Cattle Outlook - Beef Prices Record High

27 February 2012
Ron Plain
Ron Plain

US - Grocery store beef prices during January were record high for the fifth month in a row. Retail choice beef prices averaged $5.093 per pound last month, up 7.7 cents from December and up 55.1 cents from January 2011. Beef prices were above year-ago for the 23rd consecutive month.

The 5 area live weight average price for fed steers was $123.10/cwt in January, up $2.10 from December and up $17.00 from January 2011. Only November 2011 had a higher slaughter cattle price than January.

Statistics Canada says the Canadian cattle herd was 0.5 per cent larger at the start of 2012 than a year earlier. Their beef cow numbers were down 1.0 per cent, but the milk cow inventory was up 0.2 per cent. The inventory of cattle not kept for breeding was up 1.3 per cent compared to January 2011. The Canadian calf crop was 3.6 per cent smaller last year than in 2010. The Canadian cattle herd is roughly one-seventh the size of the US herd.

The beef cutout value, for both choice and select carcasses, reached new record highs this week. On Friday morning, the choice boxed beef carcass cutout value was $197.26/cwt, up $7.04 from last week. The select carcass cutout was up $7.98 from the previous Friday to $193.41 per hundred pounds of carcass weight. The choice-select spread has dropped $7 since the start of the year.

Fed cattle prices were slightly below the record highs this week in light volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $126.47/cwt, up $4.10 from last week and $15.47/cwt above the same week last year. Steer prices on a dressed basis averaged $201.14/cwt this week, up $5.30 from a week ago and up $21.39 year ago.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 592,000 head, down 3.9 per cent from the week before and down 9.6 per cent compared to a year ago. The average dressed weight for slaughter steers for the week ending on February 11 was 855 pounds, down 5 pounds from the week before and up 20 pounds from a year earlier. Year-to-date beef production is down 5.3 per cent.

Feeder cattle prices were between steady and $8 higher at most auctions across the country this week. Oklahoma City prices were $2 to $5 higher on feeder cattle with the ranges for medium and large frame #1 steers: 400-450# $199-$222, 450-500# $195-$204, 500-550# $184.50-$195, 550-600# $177-$191, 600-650# $169-$183.25, 650-700# $161-$170, 700-750# $156-$165.50, 750-800# $154-$161.50, 800-900# $140-$157.50, and 900-1000# $133.50-$147.75/cwt.

The February live cattle futures contract settled at $127.55/cwt today, down $1.05 compared to last Friday. The April contract closed at $129.50/cwt, down $1.40 for the week. June fed cattle settled at $127.75 and August at $130.20/cwt.

TheCattleSite News Desk



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