COLUMNISTS

Negotiations between Russia, Ukraine pressure grain markets

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.

The Choice beef cutout value was $258.00 on Wednesday, having gained nearly $4.00 this week with some analysts believing we have put in the seasonal low. Live fed cattle trade was at a standstill on Monday and Tuesday, with some sales at $1.00 to $2.00 higher reported on Wednesday. Bids backed off again on Thursday. Prices at auction markets were mostly steady.

Harvest numbers were on a strong pace Monday through Wednesday last week but trailed off to total 644,000 head, 10,000 head less than the previous week. Numbers are on pace with the start of last week. However, there are reports that Saturday’s harvest will be lower with at least a two larger plants not operating due to sanitation projects.

Live Cattle futures closed higher for three days before turning lower Wednesday. Feeder Cattle contracts gained ground while positive news of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine pressured grain markets. Optimism for an agreement seems to have faded, fueling the corn, soybean, and wheat markets higher again and pushing the Feeder Cattle contracts lower. Export sales according to the latest report totaled 19,700 metric tons, 11 percent below the four-week average.

Pork cutout trending higher

The pork cutout has been trending higher this week, gaining approximately $4.00 compared to last Friday and posting at $105.02 on Wednesday.

Export sales for last week were notable at 38,300 metric tons, 51 percent above the previous week and 36 percent above the four-week average. China was not listed, but Mexico continues to be a major buyer, purchasing 21,700 metric tons. Hog harvest last week totaled 2.475 million head compared to 2.419 million head the previous week.

Cash hog prices have been steady to higher. The national weighted average carcass base price was $107.73 at midweek and the cash live price was at $84.76/cwt. Feeder pig prices have been strong and running well above a year ago. There does not appear to be expansion in the swine sector with continued reports of finishing barns sitting empty.

Volatility in the pork complex is expected to continue. However, tight supplies and continued strong demand heading into the summer should give prices firm footing according to many analysts.

Beef exports continue at strong pace

Beef exports continued at a strong pace in January according to the United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Beef exports totaled 119,066 metric tons, up 13 percent from a year ago, and value was up 57 percent to $1.03 billion. This was the third-highest value total on record – trailing only August and November 2021.

The export value per head for fed cattle set a new record, topping $500 for the first time. January pork exports totaled 208,808 metric tons, down 16 percent from a year ago, and export value fell 14 percent to $555.6 million. January pork export value equated to $53.37 per head harvested, down seven percent from a year ago.

January exports of U.S. lamb totaled 1,533 metric tons, up 49 percent from a year ago, and export value climbed 59 percent to $1.9 million. Variety meat exports to Mexico accounted for $1.3 million of the value total, a year-over-year increase of 73 percent and a new monthly record.

State livestock market roundup

Choice beef breed steers and heifers at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were mostly steady with last week. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $121.00 to $138.00/cwt. Similar to last week, cattle with an overnight stand at the auction market brought up to $141.00/cwt with some higher.

Choice and Prime Holstein steers were steady to $1.00 higher at $91.00 to $123.00/cwt with reports of some high yielding steers selling to $127.00/cwt and a few above.  Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $70.00 to $92.00/cwt. Dairy x beef steers were mostly $100.00 to $135.00/cwt.

Cows were mostly steady at $52.00 to $75.00/cwt.  Beef breed cows in fleshier condition were in demand and sold into the high $80.00s/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $53.00/cwt and down. Dairy breed bull calves were steady, bringing $60.00 to $120.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $180.00/cwt. 

Beef and beef cross calves were lower, bringing up to $320.00/cwt. Market lambs were lower, selling up to $205.00/cwt with some light fed lambs selling higher.