Cattle Outlook: New Highs by Fed Cattle

US - Finished cattle are trading over $24 above this time last year, report Ron Plain and Scott Brown.
calendar icon 31 March 2014
clock icon 3 minute read
Ron Plain
Ron Plain

Fed cattle prices set new record highs this week. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $152.26/cwt, up $2.16 from a week ago, up $24.50 from a year ago, and up $1.60 from the last week of February which was the old record holder.

Steer sales on a dressed basis averaged $243.48/cwt this week, up $3.37 from a week ago and up $40.40 from year ago, write Messrs Plain and Brown.

This morning, the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $236.43/cwt, down $4.40 from the previous Friday, but up $47.53 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout is $230.48/cwt, down $4.47 from last week and up $41.66 from last year.

At the end of February, there were 407.1 million pounds of beef in cold storage. That was down 5.2 per cent from the month before, down 16.9 per cent compared to a year ago, and the smallest stocks of frozen beef since the last day of September 2010. Given the record high beef prices in recent weeks, pulling down stocks makes since.

The latest Cattle on Feed report said that February placements were up 14.7 per cent while marketings were down 3.4 per cent giving a March 1 cattle on feed inventory that is down 0.5 per cent compared to last year.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 585,000 head, up 1.7 per cent from the previous week, but down 2.2 per cent from the corresponding week last year. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on March 15 was 856 pounds, down 2 pounds from the week before and the same as a year earlier.

Feeder cattle prices at this week's Oklahoma City auction were mostly steady to $3 higher than the week before. This week's prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight were: 400-450# $255-$257, 450-500# $220-$251, 500-550# $212-$235, 550-600# $194-$225, 600-650# $186-$204.50, 650-700# $183-$196, 700-750# $175.50-$185, 750-800# $167.25-$179.50, 800-900# $158-$168.75, and 900-1000# $153.25-$161/cwt.

Cattle futures were higher this week. The April live cattle futures contract closed at $146.50/cwt today, up $2.50 from last week's close. June fed cattle settled at $138.35, up $2.23 for the week. August settled at $135.07/cwt, up $1.57 from the previous Friday.

Feeder cattle futures followed fed cattle futures higher. The April feeder cattle contract ended the week at $178.35/cwt, up $3.08 for the week. May feeders closed at $179.50/cwt, up $3.00 from the previous Friday. The August feeder cattle contract gained $3.12 this week to end at $181.02.

Corn futures were higher this week. May corn futures ended the week at $4.92/bushel, up 13 cents from the week before. July corn settled at $4.96/bushel, also 13 cents higher than the previous Friday. The September corn futures contract ended the week at $4.91/bushel.

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