Cattle harvest continues to lag behind

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 were trading steady to lower this week and the number of head harvested has been lagging behind the past two weeks. Harvest totals last week were estimated at 644,000 head, even with the week prior. The Choice beef cutout out value continues to make moves higher, posted at $261.60 on Wednesday.

The feeder cattle markets are searching for direction with close attention being given to the next monthly Cattle on Feed report to be released Friday, March 25. The average trade estimate for cattle on feed is 101.1 percent compared to March 1, 2021. The placement estimate is 106.3 percent compared to last February.

Looking into the weight breakdowns of cattle placed from previous reports, we can expect a larger number of market ready cattle in approximately six weeks. Fortunately this coincides with what is typically a seasonal increase in domestic demand. 

The USDA released an updated Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook report on March 15. They raised their beef production estimate, partly on higher non-fed cattle harvest projections. Rain and snow was widespread in the Southern Plains this week, however, which may slow the ongoing beef cow liquidation seen in that region.

Beef exports remain strong, with sales of 27,500 metric tons reported during the most recent trading week information. That matches the marketing week high set so far this year and is 29 percent above the four-week average.  Actual shipments were 56 percent higher than the previous week.

Hog 7 percent behind last year

Hog harvest continues to run below year-ago levels totaling an estimated 2.435 million last week. That is 40,000 hogs lower than the previous week and 89,000 below the same week last year. Hog harvest year-to-date is 7.1 percent below last year.  

The USDA’s latest Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook reduced pork production estimates for the year based on continued lower harvest numbers and evidence of increased disease risks.

The pork cutout value is holding steady to making modest gains at $106.39 Wednesday. Cash hogs on a carcass basis were $107.14/cwt and the live price was $80.05/cwt Wednesday. The latest pork export numbers were 39 percent lower than the previous week at 23,700 metric tons.

Mexico was once again the lead buyer with China making no new purchases. China is overproducing pork and outpacing domestic demand forcing prices there to remain below cost of production. It is unclear whether liquidation in the country due to the low prices is compounding the problem.

Amount of beef in freezers up

Total red meat supplies in freezers on February 22, 2022 were up 5 percent from the January and up 1 percent from February of 2021. Total pounds of beef in freezers were up 1 percent from the previous month and up 4 percent from last year.

Frozen pork supplies were up 11 percent from the previous month but down 1 percent from last year. Stocks of pork bellies were up 12 percent from last month and up 34 percent from last year. Lamb and mutton in cold storage is up 2 percent when compared to January, but 17 percent below February 2021.

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.  Once again, high Choice and Prime type cattle with an overnight stand at the auction market sold higher up to $143.00/cwt. with some higher.  

Choice and Prime Holstein steers were strong, selling $1.00 to $2.00 higher at $93.00 to $125.00/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 $93.00/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were mostly $100.00 to $134.00/cwt.

Cows were $2.00 higher at $54.00 to $77.00/cwt.  Beef breed cows in fleshier condition 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 $200.00/cwt.