Cattle sellers holding out for higher prices

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

Cash cattle trade was slow to develop again this week with sellers holding out for higher prices. Demand remains strong as packers continue to increase weekly harvest. Last week’s total of 663,000 head was the largest of the year so far, 4,000 head above the previous week and 114,000 head more than the same week last year. Last year’s total was impacted by widespread winter weather that slowed cattle movement.

The cold and inclement weather this week is not expected to impact harvest numbers, but there is concern about feedlot performance being negatively affected in the Plains.

A Cattle on Feed report will be released on February 25, 2022 after this update has been distributed. The average trade estimate for Cattle on Feed is 100.9 percent compared to February 1, 2021. While the average trade guess for cattle placed on feed is 99.2 percent, estimates range from three percent below to four percent above January 2021.

Cattle marketed is expected to be three percent below the same period a year ago. The Choice beef cutout value continues to show weakness, posting at $276.13. That is $3.00 lower than last week but still well above a year ago when it was $232.04. 

Lean hog futures set new highs

Pork has been the protein showing the most strength. Lean Hog futures continued to set new highs until selling off sharply on Wednesday and opening lower Thursday. The April contract closed $4.05 lower at $108 after reaching a high of $112.85.

The pork cutout value remains strong, posting at $109.12 on Wednesday. Cash hogs have remained steady to higher during this stretch. The harvest estimate for last week was 2.507 million hogs, 9,000 fewer than the previous week and 94,000 more than the same week last year when winter weather hampered packer operations.

The hog sector remains relatively bullish based on lower market hog supplies and continued strong demand both domestic and globally.

Cold storage report released

The USDA released its monthly Cold Storage report on February 22, 2022. Frozen red meat supplies were up six percent on January 31, 2022 compared to the previous month but still three percent lower than the same date last year.

Total pounds of beef in freezers was up four percent from the previous month and up one percent from last year. Frozen pork supplies were up eight percent from the previous month but down six percent from last year.

Total frozen poultry supplies on January 31, 2022 were up 11 percent from the previous month but down 10 percent from a year ago. Total stocks of chicken were up three percent from the previous month but down seven percent from last year. Total pounds of turkey in freezers were up 47 percent from last month but down 19 percent from January 31, 2021.

Market lamb supply tight

Market lamb supply appears to be extremely tight. The typical increase in lambs coming to market leading up to Easter is not developing. This has caused a sharp increase in the price of market ewes led by demand for ethnic markets.

Much of the mutton produced in the U.S. is typically exported to Mexico, but domestic demand has changed that dynamic. The five-year average price for retired ewes is less than $1.00/pound, but they are bringing over $2.00/pound currently.

State livestock market roundup

Choice beef breed steers and heifers at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were $2.00 higher. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $124.00 to $144.00/cwt with tops reported from $145.00 to $150.00/cwt.

Choice and Prime Holstein steers were steady to $1.00 higher at $93.00 to $125.00/cwt. with reports of steers selling to $127.00 and some packages higher again this week.  Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $70.00 to $94.00/cwt. Dairy x beef steers were mostly $99.00 to $139.00/cwt.

Cows were $2.00 higher at $50.00 to $72.00/cwt. Blemish free and beef breed cows in fleshier condition sold into the low $80.00s/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $50.00/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 $245.00/cwt, but lightly tested