USDA reports: steer and dairy cow harvest down

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 latest USDA Cattle on Feed Report showed the number of cattle in feedlots less than a half percent above September 1, 2021. The number of cattle placed into feedlots came in higher than most trade expectations once again, also 100.4 % compared to August last year. Most notably, the number of feeders placed weighing less than 600 pounds was 25,000 head higher than last August.

The USDA also released a monthly Slaughter report last week. Steer harvest year-to-date is running 2.2 % below 2021 levels, with dairy cow harvest 3.3 % lower than last year. Those numbers are more than offset by a 4.2 % increase in heifer harvest and a beef cow harvest running 13.1 % higher than last year. Overall, that puts beef production 1.6 % above 2021 year-to-date.

The Choice beef cutout value finished the week at $248.63, $4.80 lower than the previous Friday. Packers continued an aggressive production schedule. The estimate weekly harvest matched the previous week total of 667,000 and that was 24,000 head more than the same week a year ago. The USDA called live cattle $1.75/cwt higher last week.

The monthly Cold Storage Report showed a 24.3 % increase in frozen beef supplies. While the number seems large, frozen red meat supplies have been much lower than typical the past two years and supplies are still below 2019 levels.

Lean hog futures contract falls

The October Lean Hog futures contract fell $4.15 last week after being especially hard hit Friday. Cash hogs were called $1.50 lower. Year-to-date pork production is 2.2 % below last year, while hog harvest by head is down nearly 3.0 %. 

Higher hog weights have helped offset the lower harvest numbers. The USDA Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report indicated the breeding herd 1 % lower than last year and down slightly from last quarter with a total of 6.15 million head. Market hog inventory, at 67.6 million head, was down 1 % from last year, but up 2 % from last quarter.

The carcass cutout value lost $2.60 last week finishing Friday at $100.93. The harvest estimate for last week was 2.538 million, 73,000 hogs higher than the previous week and 45,000 below the same week last year. Similar to beef, frozen pork supplies have grown from the low levels seen during 2020 and 2021, up 17.1 % from last August.

Bump in market lamb prices over

The higher market lamb prices seen last week didn’t hold, with the USDA’s weekly National Sheep Summary reporting a $5.00 to $15.00/cwt drop. The carcass cutout value held fairly steady, losing only 38 cents for a $556.35 finish Friday.

Lamb and mutton production in August was up 13 %  from the same month last year. Harvest by head was up 2 %, while the average live weight of 127 was 11 pounds higher than a year ago. Mature sheep harvest is running 20 % lower than 2021 year-to-date. Last week’s estimated harvest of 33,000 sheep and lambs was 1,000 head lower than the previous week and 2,000 lower compared the same week last year.

State livestock market roundup

Prices were mostly steady on most classes of livestock at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets. Choice beef breed steers and heifers were mostly steady with last week with reported strong demand on exceptionally well fed cattle.

High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $122.00 to $146.00/cwt. There were again reports of high Choice and Prime lots selling to $150.00/cwt and above. Choice Holstein steers were steady at $107.00 to $135.00/cwt with high grading Holstein steers bringing $135.00 to $140.00/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 $145.00/cwt.

Cows were steady to $1.00 lower. A bulk of the cows brought $55.00 to $79.00/cwt with some selling into the high 80’s. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $55.00/cwt and down. Dairy breed bull calves were lower, bringing $50.00 to $100.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $130.00/cwt with some reports of calves bringing $150.00/cwt.

Beef and Beef Cross calves were mostly steady, selling to $395.00/cwt with a few above. Market lambs brought $95.00 to $120.00/cwt with some reports of tops on light lambs to $145.00/cwt.