Record set for lowest level of feeder cattle available

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

Harvest activities were off to a strong start last week, but winter weather on Thursday and Friday in parts of the country slowed operations. Estimated weekly harvest was 639,000 head, 4,000 head below the previous week and 13,000 head less than the same week a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were higher last week, and the momentum carried into early sales this week. Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist, provided insight into last week’s Cattle Inventory report in his latest “Cow-Calf Corner.”

The current beef cow herd is 4.9 percent below the peak of 2019, with the 2021 calf crop 3.4 percent lower than the 2018 peak. As of January 1, the number of cattle in feedlots was 57.5 percent of the total available, leaving 1.74 million head to be placed.

This is the lowest level of feeder cattle available on record. It is the result of calves being placed early due to dry conditions in parts of the country and a lower cow herd inventory. Cattle on Feed numbers will be slow to decline since the calves in lots will take time to reach market weight, but a drop in inventories will be noticeable later this year.

During the CattleFax Outlook Seminar at the 2022 Cattle Industry Convention, Vice President of Industry Relations and Analysis Kevin Good, predicted the Choice Beef Cutout Value to hold steady in 2022 near $280.00 with the beef retail price to average $7.15/pound.

CattleFax forecasted the average fed price in 2022 at $140.00/cwt with a range of $130.00 to $155.00 during the year. The average 800-pound feeder steer is expected to average $172.00/cwt with 550-pound steers expected to average $205.00/cwt. 

Tight supplies, demand rallies lean hog future contracts

Tight supplies and strong demand rallied Lean Hog future contracts with spring and summer month contracts trading over $100.00/cwt. The June contract closed at 114.95 on Wednesday. It is expected for tight market hog numbers to continue and demand to remain high well into summer.

A winter storm in parts of the Midwest slowed a harvest that had been off to a robust start last week. The estimated harvest for the week of 2.436 hogs was 90,000 head below the previous week and 237,000 head below 2020.

The USDA cash 40-pound feeder pig price last week was posted at $105.00/head, and that compares to $68.00/head a year ago. The decreased sow herd at 300,000 head less than the peak, represents a 7.5 million pig decrease in feeder pig availability.

The pork cutout value had been holding around the $97.00 -$98.00 range. It rose $7.55 on Wednesday to $104.84 and is expected to stay above $100.00 for the next several weeks.

WI sheep and lamb inventory drops

All sheep and lamb inventory in the U.S. on January 1, 2022 totaled 5.07 million head, down two percent from 2021. Breeding sheep inventory was 3.71 million head on January 1, 2022, decreasing two percent from 3.78 million head on January 1, 2021. Ewes one year old and older, at 2.91 million head, were two percent below last year. Market sheep and lambs on January 1, 2022 totaled 1.36 million head, down three percent from January 1, 2021.

Wisconsin’s sheep and lamb inventory dropped by 4,000 head from 2021. Total breeding sheep in Wisconsin dropped by four percent to 66,000 head.

State livestock auction roundup

Choice beef breed steers and heifers at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were steady to $2.00 higher. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $122.00 to 142.00/cwt with tops in the mid $140.00s/cwt and some above.

ytttChoice and Prime Holstein steers were strong at $93.00 to $122.00/cwt with widespread reports of steers selling to $125.00 and some packages higher. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $70.00 to $94.00/cwt. Dairy x beef steers were mostly $97.00 to $136.00/cwt. Cows continue to work higher at $48.00 to $68.00/cwt. Blemish free and beef breed cows in fleshier condition sold into the $70.00s/cwt.  Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $48.00/cwt and down. Dairy breed bull calves were steady bringing $50.00 to $100.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $160.00/cwt. Beef and beef cross calves were steady bringing up to $320.00/cwt. Market lambs were steady selling up to $242.50/cwt., but were lightly tested.