Higher corn futures, slow planting progress, late start to grilling season cause concern

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 higher last week with the USDA reporting the weighted average for beef breed steers at $143.31/cwt. That’s $0.30 higher than the previous week, although prices in the northern U.S. outpaced the south by at least $4.00/cwt.

The June Live Cattle contract at the Chicago Board of Trade dropped $5.50 during the week to close at $132.65 on Friday. The Choice carcass cutout value also lost ground, ending the week $6.25 lower at $260.78. Higher corn futures contracts, slow planting progress, and a late start to the grilling season are causing concern.

Last week’s harvest estimate was first published at 656,000 head, then was revised to 649,000 head. That makes it 9,000 head below the previous week and 4,000 lower than the same week last year. Year-to-date harvest is running .05 percent higher compared to 2021. Carcass weights dropped three pounds this week to average 870 pounds. That is still 13 pounds heavier than this time last year.

The number of cattle grading Choice and Prime decreased by nearly one percent. The May Feeder Cattle contract at the Board of Trade fell $7.00 last week to close at $156.35 Friday. Feeder cattle prices at auction markets were called $2.00 to $3.00/cwt lower. Some markets reported prices were higher on lighter weight calves suitable for turning out on grass.

Cash hog prices $1 lower

Cash hogs were $1.00 lower last week. The May Lean Hog futures contract finished the week $12.40 lower to close at $100.90. The May contract’s high was on March 31 when it reached $127.32. The pork carcass cutout value experienced weakness, dropping $4.20 to end the week at $104.58.

Pork producers are experiencing the same concerns as those in the cattle sector with the addition of export sales lagging behind last year. Mexico has been a bright spot for U.S. pork exports, although the first shipment of pork from Ireland is expected to arrive in Mexico this month.

Last week’s estimated harvest was 2.403 million hogs, up 29,000 hogs from the previous week and 39,000 below the same week last year. Total harvest is running 5.7 percent behind 2021 year-to-date with little likelihood of market hog supply increasing during 2022.

Slow start to spring planting

One percent of the corn crop has been planted in Wisconsin as of May 1. That is 16 days behind last year and two weeks behind the average. Nationally, 14 percent of the corn crop has been planted.

Soybean planting in Wisconsin is three percent complete, five days behind last year and three days behind the average. Eight percent of the nation’s soybeans have been planted. Pastures are rated 40 percent good to excellent in Wisconsin.

Throughout the U.S., 22 percent of pastures are rated good to excellent. Wisconsin potato growers have made progress with 31 percent of their crop in the ground, and that is eight days behind last year and just one day behind the five-year average.

Market lamb sales mixed

Market lambs were mixed last week. There were reports of some lighter lambs bringing up to $300.00/cwt with 110-140 pound new crop lambs bringing $150.00 to $255.00 in the Midwest. Last week’s sheep and lamb estimated harvest was 35,000 head, equal to the previous week and 12,000 head less than the same week a year ago. 

State livestock market roundup

Choice beef breed steers and heifers at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were steady. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $128.00 to $141.00/cwt. High Choice and Prime type cattle with an overnight stand at the auction market sold from $140.00 to $147.00/cwt.

Choice Holstein steers were mostly steady at $94.00 to $117.00/cwt with high grading Holsteins steers bringing $117.00 to $126.00/cwt with some packages higher. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $72.00 to $94.00/cwt. Dairy x beef steers were mostly $100.00 to $139.00/cwt.

Cows were $2.00 to $4.00 lower at $53.00 to $75.00/cwt. Beef breed cows in fleshier condition sold into the mid $80.00s/cwt.  Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $53.00/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were higher, bringing $50.00 to $170.00/head with heavier, well cared for calves up to $215.00/head. Beef and beef cross calves were lower, bringing up to $380.00/head. Market lambs were bringing up to $255.00/cwt.