Cash cattle market under pressure

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

The cash cattle market is under pressure with the USDA reporting a beef steer weighted average of $139.38/cwt Wednesday, May 18 compared to $142.41/cwt the previous Friday.

Prices at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were steady to higher through mid-week, however. Last week’s estimated harvest of 657,000 head was equal with the previous week and 13,000 more than the same week a year ago. Live Cattle futures have been searching for a support level. While cash cattle markets continue to focus on supply, futures markets are nervous about the demand picture being influenced by the overall economy.

The Choice beef cutout finished last week at $258.95/cwt, $57.20 below last year. The cutout value did break through the $260.00 level by Wednesday this week, however.  The latest World Supply and Demand Estimates report increased its projection for 2022 beef production based on a sustained increase in cow harvest and large placement numbers.

The USDA projected 2023 beef production to decrease by 7 percent. The May USDA Cattle on Feed report will be posted Friday after this Update has been distributed. While the average trade estimate for cattle on feed is 1.4 percent above May 1 last year, it signals the start of an expected decline in fed cattle numbers. The average estimate of cattle placed in feedlots is 4 percent lower than last April. That would still be above the five-year April placement average. 

Cash hogs were higher this week

The pork carcass cutout lost over $5.00 last week, and is nearly $14.30 lower than this time last year. Most weakness was seen in hams and bellies. Prices had recovered somewhat by midweek, gaining $2.44 by Wednesday to $103.61.

Last week’s estimated harvest was 2.375 million hogs, 39,000 less than the previous week and 9,000 below the same week last year.

Our first glimpse into 2023 from the World Supply and Demand Estimates report projects pork production to increase by 1.2 percent in 2023 based on expected increased farrowings and increased productivity. There are reports China will purchase 40,000 metric tons of pork domestically for their federal reserves in an attempt to support prices there.

The latest agriculture export data showed 24,100 metric tons of US pork purchased by foreign buyers. The number shows a strong week of sales, although lower than the previous reporting period which was a marketing year high.

Sheep, lamb harvest up

Sheep and lamb harvest last week was estimated to be 37,000 head, 2,000 head more than the previous week, but 2,000 below the same week in 2022. Year-to-date harvest is running 11.5 percent behind last year. Nationally cash lamb prices  last week were called weak, dropping $40.00/cwt. 

Retail prices up

The Choice beef retail composite price was $7.73/pound in April, up 14.5 percent from year-ago levels.  Pork retail price was $4.89/pound for April, and that’s up 13% from year-ago levels. Chicken prices also increased by 19 percent from last year to $2.39/pound.

State livestock market roundup

Choice beef breed steers and heifers at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were steady to higher. 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 $142.00 to $150.00/cwt. Choice Holstein steers were higher at $98.00 to $125.00/cwt. with high grading Holsteins steers bringing $125.00 to $130.00/cwt.  Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $72.00 to $98.00/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were mostly $100.00 to $144.00/cwt.

Cows were steady to $2.00 higher at $50.00 to $77.00/cwt.  Beef breed cows in fleshier condition sold into the mid $80.00s/cwt.  Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $50.00/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were lower, bringing $40.00 to $100.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $140.00/head.  Beef and Beef Cross calves were steady to higher bringing up to $360.00/head. Market lambs were bringing up to $230.00/cwt. with some light market lambs selling higher.