Direction of pork prices anyone's guess

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

In a repeat of last week, fed cattle negotiated trade was slow to develop, but was steady to $1.00 higher by Thursday in the northern U.S. Prices at auction markets and stockyards were also fully steady to $1.00 higher. There is potential for cattle prices to begin working higher as supplies start to decrease heading into the fourth quarter.

The Choice Beef Cutout value held mostly steady last week, losing just $0.50 to finish Friday at $257.26, but was $253.47 on Wednesday. That puts the cutout value more than $70.00 below this time last year.

The holiday shortened week saw an estimated harvest of 604,000 head, down 34,000 head from the previous week and up 25,000 head compared to last year.

U.S. exports again topped $1 billion in July and posted the fifth-largest volume on record. July beef export value added $472.75 per head of fed cattle, up 11 percent from a year ago.

Direction of pork prices anyone's guess

There are two opinions regarding where hog and pork prices will go in the months ahead. Some traders point to the typical seasonal trend of lower fall prices. Others point to strong fundamentals, noting that market hog supply is running lower than expectations and that carcass weights have decreased recently. There is also speculation that China will increase its purchases of U.S. pork this fall.

Cash hogs were $3.75 lower last week, although the October Lean Hog futures contract was higher. The pork cutout value gained $1.15, ending the week at $102.87. Hog harvest numbers were down as expected given the Labor Day holiday. Harvest was estimated at 2.243 million head, lower by 113,000 head from the previous week and down 5,000 head compared to the same week last year.

Pork exports remained below last year’s pace in July but continued to gain strength in Colombia and the Caribbean and stayed above year-ago for Mexico. Mexico again took about nine percent of U.S. pork muscle cut production in July. July pork export value equated to $67.10 per head, the highest in 12 months and down just $0.03 from a year ago.

Lighter market lambs preferred

Lighter market lambs were called firm with heavier lambs still being discounted. The carcass cutout value dropped $16.70 for a $562.01 finish last week. The estimated sheep and lamb harvest was 28,000 head, 4,000 below the previous week and 3,000 less than the same week last year.   

Through July, lamb muscle cut exports increased 94 percent to 1,282 metric tons, valued at $7.7 million (up 82 percent). Led by the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands Antilles, exports to the Caribbean more than doubled from a year ago. Exports also increased to Mexico, the Philippines and Panama.

Wisconsin livestock prices mixed

Prices were mixed on most classes of livestock at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets. Choice beef breed steers and heifers were mostly steady to $1.00 to $2.00 higher.

High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $122.00 to $144.00/cwt. There were several reports of high Choice and Prime lots selling to $148.00/cwt and above. Choice Holstein steers were steady to $2.00 higher at $107.00 to $134.00/cwt with high grading Holstein steers bringing $134.00 up to $138.00/cwt with some packages selling higher.

Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75.00 to $107.00/cwt. Dairy x beef steers were bringing $105.00 to $140.00/cwt.

Cows were higher and sold from $56.00 to $80.00/cwt with some selling to the high $80.00s/cwt and reports of some beef types selling higher. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $56.00/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were higher, bringing $55.00 to $145.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $200.00/cwt. Beef and beef cross calves were mostly higher, selling to $380.00/head. Market lambs brought $95.00 to $110.00/cwt with some reports of tops of $140.00 and some lighter market lambs topping at $180.00.