Live cattle prices remain steady

Jeff Swenson
Jeff Swenson

Prepared and written by Jeff Swenson, DATCP Livestock and Meat Specialist. The Market Update draws information from several sources, including trade publications, radio broadcasts, agricultural news services, individuals involved in the industry as well as USDA NASS and AMS reports.

Live cattle prices were steady heading into this week with some strength in the Midwest. Estimated harvest for last week was 646,000 head, 17,000 lower than the previous week. This week’s harvest is shaping up to be closer to the 650,000 head level.

There are reports that heavier cattle remaining in feedlots are steadily heading to market and that could tip some of the bargaining power to the producer in the coming weeks.

Exports of U.S.-raised beef were disappointing last week at 7,600 metric tons, a marketing year low. Friday, October 22, 2021 will see the release of a monthly USDA Cattle on Feed Report. The number of cattle in feedlots of 1,000 head is expected to be even with a year ago while the average trade guess puts placements 1.4 higher than September 2020, with some estimating as much 3 percent higher.

The Choice Beef Carcass cutout value has stayed steady this week with improvement in the value of Select carcasses. This would indicate retailers are saving cost by ordering more economically priced beef signaling consumer pushback of higher beef prices.

Pork weights up, prices down

The Pork Carcass Cutout Value dropped below the $100.00 mark this week, closing Wednesday (10/20) at $96.87. The cash hog price on a carcass basis was also lower at $66.93 Wednesday.

Hog weights have crept higher. The average live weight last week of 287.1 pounds is 2 pounds heavier than the same week last year. Lean Hog futures did run higher on Monday and Tuesday this week, but sold off at midweek. The higher weights and lowest cutout values seen since March pressured the futures market.

An estimated harvest last week of 2.637 million hogs was the largest since the week ending February 26, 2021. Export sales totaled 22,300 metric tons. Mexico was the lead buyer, purchasing 10,200 metric tons.  China was absent from purchasing during the period, likely due to a combination of the country celebrating the Golden Week holiday and pork overproduction in China.

In many cases, farmers in China are selling off their breeding stock as hog prices are below breakeven costs and have left some producers unable to afford feed.

Market lamb prices are $1.00 to $3.00/cwt lower this week along a typical seasonal trend. Prices are still higher than this time last year and running ahead of the five-year average. Sheep and lamb harvest last week was estimated at 35,000 head, 1,000 head more than the previous week. Year-to-date harvest is 1.5 million head, which is even with 2020.

WI bucking national trend

Milk production in Wisconsin was up 3 percent from September 2020 according to the latest USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Milk Production report. The average number of milk cows during September, at 1.28 million head, was unchanged from last month but up 22,000 from September 2020.

Wisconsin is bucking the national trend of sending more cows to market. The number of milk cows on farms in the 24 major states was 8.93 million head, 48,000 head more than September 2020 but 22,000 head less than August 2021.

The average number of milk cows in the U.S. during the quarter was 9.45 million head, 48,000 head less than the April - June 201 quarter, but 74,000 head more than the same period last year.

State market trends

Choice beef breed steers and heifers at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were mostly steady. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $110.00 to $124.00/cwt with a few above. Choice and Prime Holstein steers were mostly steady at $91.00 to $115.00/cwt.

There were some Holstein steers selling higher. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $70.00 to $91.00/cwt. Dairy x beef steers were mostly $99.00 to $119.00/cwt.

Cows were lower, bringing $35.00 to $55.00/cwt. Blemish-free cows in fleshier condition sold to the lower $60.00s/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $34.00/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were steady to higher at $30.00 to $85.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $135.00/cwt. Beef and beef cross calves brought up to $300.00/cwt. Market lambs sold to $210.00 to $230.00/cwt.