Cattle Outlook: Size of April Cattle Placement Increase 'Surprising'

US - USDA's May Cattle on Feed report said there were 1.3 per cent more cattle on feed than a year ago. April placements were up a surprising 7.5 per cent and April marketings were up 1.2 per cent, write Ron Plain and Scott Brown, Ag Economics, MU.
calendar icon 23 May 2016
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Ron Plain
Ron Plain

The April average for retail choice beef was $6.105 per pound. That was 11.8 cents lower than in March and 39.7 cents lower than in April 2015.

The average retail price for all fresh beef was $5.808/pound in April. Ground beef prices are down but steak prices are holding steady. The average price of ground beef in grocery stores during April was $3.815 per pound.

That was down 14 cents from March, down 41.6 cents from a year ago, and the lowest average price for any month since April 2014. The average price of choice sirloin steak in grocery stores during April was $8.502 per pound. That was down 1.2 cents from March, up 17.3 cents from a year ago, and the highest average price ever for the month of April.

Calculations by the Livestock Marketing Information Center put feedlot losses for steers slaughtered in April at $5.98 per head. That was down from losses of $105.38 in March and $215.14 in April 2015.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on May 7 was 862 pounds, down 6 pounds from the week before and down 8 pounds from a year ago. This was the first week that steer weights averaged below the year-ago level since the week ending on June 14, 2014.

On Friday morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $225.10/cwt, up $7.16 from the previous Friday, but down $35.70 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout this morning was $208.85/cwt, up $3.03 from last week. The choice-select spread, at $16.25/cwt, is the largest since December 8, 2014.

Fed cattle prices were lower last week in moderate volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $131.14/cwt, down $1.49 from the previous week's average. The 5-area dressed steer price averaged $204.03/cwt, down $4.54 from the week before.

Last week's cattle slaughter totalled 587,000 head, down 2.3 per cent from the previous week, but up 2.8 per cent from a year ago.

Prices for feeder cattle at the Oklahoma City Stockyards were $1 to $3 higher compared to the previous week. Stocker calf prices were steady. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $185-$193.50, 450-500# $177-$190, 500-550# $165-$186.50, 550-600# $159-$175, 600-650# $148-$169, 650-700# $147-$167, 700-750# $145-$155, 750-800# $146.50-$154.25, 800-900# $129-$148.50 and 900-1000# $125-$140/cwt.

On Friday, the June live cattle futures contract settled at $121.05/cwt, down $2.37 for the week. August fed cattle settled at $117.45/cwt, down $1.27 from the previous Friday. October ended the week at $117.10/cwt. May feeder cattle futures ended the week at $148.62/cwt, up $1.57 from a week earlier. August feeders gained $1.67 this week to close at $147.92/cwt.

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