Cash cattle prices up more than $25.00/cwt than a year ago

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.

Jeff Swenson

Fed cattle prices were $3.00/cwt higher when the dust settled last week as packers worked the country to buy cattle for this week’s production. Feedlot operators were holding out for steady money this week and trade was slow to develop. Early week sales at auction markets were showing mostly steady prices. Cash cattle prices are more than $25.00/cwt higher than a year ago.

Harvest estimates for the week ending January 1 came in at 537,000 head, 49,000 head higher than the week of Christmas and 22,000 head more than the same week last year. There was optimism harvest numbers would beat 650,000 head per week in early 2022, but there are reports of higher absentee rates in all areas of the supply chain. However, it is not as high as the spring of 2020.

Traders have been nervous about the rise in COVID-19 cases. Live Cattle futures closed $2.00 lower Tuesday but rebounded somewhat by Thursday. There is optimism for steady or higher prices as supply decreases, if demand remains high and cattle are able to move through the system.

Cold temperatures in many cattle feeding regions of the country will limit cattle weight gains and could make fewer cattle available in the short term.

Cutout values make gains

The pork carcass cutout made gains Wednesday and Thursday after slipping early in the week. The cutout value was posted at $89.56 Thursday with increases most notably in hams and loins.

Cash hogs have been working higher. On a carcass basis, hogs were $61.50/cwt late last week and had increased to $68.60/cwt on Thursday. Last week’s harvest estimate was 2.181 million hogs, up 263,000 from Christmas week and 32,000 higher than the same week last year.

Like the beef sector, harvest levels during the first quarter of 2022 could be impacted by COVID-19 absences and general workforce shortages.

As reported last week, the latest Hogs and Pigs report indicated that market hog supply will remain below two years ago heading into 2022. A promising statistic from the report was the increase in pigs saved per litter during September through November last year. Although up only slightly, 11.19 compared to 11.05 the previous year, it could indicate producers are successfully working through some of the disease challenges of the past two years.

Export sales for the period of December 24-30 included 14,900 metric tons for 2021, with Mexico being the largest buyer. An additional 18,600 metric tons for 2022 delivery was ordered with the largest buyer being Japan, followed closely by Mexico.

2021 beef cow liquidation impacts will be felt in 2022 and beyond

Beef cow liquidation during 2021 will impact the number of feeder cattle this year and beyond. Fed cattle availability will be further influenced in the future when breeding herd expansion begins due to fewer heifers being placed in feedlots.

Dairy cow numbers decreased overall nationally in November with Wisconsin’s herd unchanged compared the previous month at 1.28 million head. That is 18,000 head higher than November 2020.

The number of milk cows on farms in the U.S. was 9.39 million head, 47,000 head less than November 2020 and 10,000 head less than October 2021. The USDA will release a Cattle Inventory report on January 31, 2022 and will give a clearer picture of the both the national beef and dairy herd size.

State market roundup

Choice beef breed steers and heifers at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were mostly steady. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $125.00 to $139.00/cwt with tops in the mid $140.00s/cwt.

Choice and Prime Holstein steers were steady to higher this week at $93.00 to $116.00/cwt. Some packages were selling to $119.00/cwt with a few packages higher. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $70.00 to $94.00/cwt. Dairy x beef steers were mostly $95.00 to $134.00/cwt.

Cows were steady to $2.00 higher at $35.00 to $55.00/cwt. Blemish free and beef breed cows in fleshier condition sold into the $60.00s/cwt with some higher. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $35.00/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were steady, bringing $50.00 to $100.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $130.00/cwt. Beef and beef cross calves were lower bringing up to $325.00/cwt. Market lambs were selling up to $235.00/cwt.