Beef prices enjoy uptick

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.

Private treaty fed cattle trade started early in the week, although at a slow pace. Sales were reported to be $1.00/cwt higher in the northern U.S. and prices at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets reflected that as well. Wholesale beef prices have been showing strength as seasonal demand is picking up. Retailers have been placing orders, as they have been warned beef production will be slowing in the weeks ahead.

The Choice beef cutout value gained 80 cents last week, finishing Friday at $246.98 and was $253.39 Wednesday of this week. The average retail price of beef was $7.60 in September. While that is 3.4% higher than the same time last year, some cuts continue to come down in price. Sirloin steak, for instance, is 4.2% lower than a year ago. Last week’s estimated harvest of 660,000 head was 4,000 lower than the previous week and 17,000 head more than the same week last year. Daily harvest estimates are slightly lower than last week, but still ahead of last year. Some packers continue to scale back on Saturday harvest schedules. 

Cash hogs continue to make gains

Cash hogs were 70 cents higher last week. Wholesale prices were active as well, with the pork cutout value ending Friday at $101.86, nearly $2.90 higher than the week prior. Cash hogs continued to make gains this week, but wholesale prices were giving back some of their early week gains. The average retail pork price in September was $5.00, 6% higher than last year. Pork continues to attract price conscious shoppers.

Pork exports continue to post larger numbers than seen earlier in the year. According to the most recent export report, 40,800 metric tons of US pork was sold to foreign buyers. Mexico was the largest buyer once again, purchasing 14,800 metric tons, followed by Japan at 11,000.

Demand for lamb slows

There has been a definite slowdown in lamb demand. Lamb and mutton in cold storage has been building through the summer and early fall. Frozen stocks on August 31 were 29.1 million pounds, an increase of 14% from July and up 32% from August 2021.

Mature sheep harvest has returned to more normal levels. There is a growing supply of heavy old-crop lambs on feed in the west, especially in Colorado, and that continues to weigh on the market.

The lamb carcass cutout value lost 50 cents last week, posted at $555.36 Friday. Harvest totals have been holding steady with an estimated 33,000 head last week, even with the previous week, but 5,000 pounds lower than a year ago.

State livestock market roundup 

Choice beef breed steers and heifers were mostly steady to $1.00 higher this week. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $122.00 to $148.00/cwt. Groups of high Choice and Prime lots selling from $149.00 to $157.00/cwt. Choice Holstein steers were steady, but were lower at midweek, bringing $107.00 to $134.00/cwt with high grading Holstein steers bringing $135.00 to $140.00/cwt and 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 $147.00/cwt.

Cows were lower. A bulk of the cows brought $50.00 to $73.00/cwt with some selling into the low 80’s. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $50.00/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were steady, bringing $50.00 to $100.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $150.00/cwt.  Beef and Beef Cross calves were mostly steady to lower, selling to $370.00/cwt. Market lambs brought $95.00 to $112.00/cwt with some reports of tops of $150.00/cwt.