Beef for Independence Day is likely in the pipeline

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 beef complex has held better than many expected given the indicators that a large supply of market ready cattle would be available now. Packers have been seeking cattle with country trade developing early in the week.

The latest National Weekly Fed Cattle Comprehensive reports carcass weights continue to decrease with an average of 852.6 pounds for beef type cattle. With the lighter weights, predictably the percentage of cattle grading Choice and Prime has dropped.

Last week’s estimated harvest was 674,000 head, 71,000 head more than Memorial Day week and 4,000 head more than the same week last year.

The Choice beef cutout gained $4.00 last week to finish Friday at $271.32 but has shown weakness, declining every day this week.

Beef for Independence Day is likely in the pipeline. Extreme heat in the Southern Plains is causing cattle losses in feedlots, and the heat is expected to continue. The composite retail price of beef dropped $0.06/pound in May to $7.64, although it is still 10.2 percent higher than a year ago.

Hogs continue to show upward momentum

Cash hogs were another $0.50 higher last week and continue to show upward momentum. The USDA reported the national weighted average as $91.03/cwt Wednesday and $119.86/cwt on a carcass basis. Domestic demand for pork is still strong.

The retail price for pork stayed steady in May compared to April at $4.89/pound. That is 11.4 percent higher than a year ago.  The pork carcass cutout dropped $1.40 last week to $109.16 Friday and was $105.79 on Wednesday.

Last week’s harvest estimate of 2.372 million hogs was up 328,000 hogs from last week and 60,000 hogs below the same week last year. Year-to-date harvest is still running 4.5 percent below a year ago.

Pork exports have been lower than last year with decreases to China being the most notable. Overproduction there coupled with COVID-19 lock downs have lessened their need for imported pork.

Lamb harvest numbers inch upward

Last week’s sheep and lamb harvest estimate was 34,000 head, 4,000 more than Memorial Day week and even with the same week a year ago. The USDA’s Weekly Sheep Summary reported market lamb prices steady to $3.00/pound lower. 

U.S. beef exports top $1 billion

U.S. beef exports topped $1 billion for the third time this year, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). April pork exports were well below the large totals posted a year ago, while lamb exports continued to trend higher.

Beef exports were up three percent from a year ago and the fifth largest on record, while export value rose 33 percent to $1.05 billion – second only to the record posted in March. April beef export value equated to $489.59 per head of fed cattle, up 33 percent from a year ago and the second highest on record. April pork exports were down 21 percent from the large volume reported a year ago.

Export value was $600.6 million, down 20 percent. April pork export value equated to $59.58 per head, down 14 percent from a year ago. April exports of U.S. lamb increased 37 percent from a year ago to 1,493 metric tons, while export value soared 90 percent to $2.56 million.

State livestock market roundup

Choice beef breed steers and heifers at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were mostly steady. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $127.00 to $140.00/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 steady to $1.00 higher at $103.00 to $130.00/cwt with high grading Holstein steers bringing $130.00 to $136.00/cwt. Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $72.00 to $100.00/cwt. Dairy x beef steers were bringing $99.00 to $134.00/cwt. Cows were $2.00 higher at $58.00 to $81.00/cwt. Beef breed cows in fleshier condition sold into the high $80.00s/cwt with a few above.  Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $58.00/cwt and down. Dairy breed bull calves were higher, bringing $50.00 to $175.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $260.00/cwt. Beef and beef cross calves were bringing up to $360.00/head. Market lambs brought up to $210.00 with some lighter market lambs selling to $230.00/cwt.