Beef demand, cattle numbers remains strong

Jeff Swenson
Beef demand has been strong, and there are still enough fed cattle available to keep pace.

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.

Beef demand has been strong, and there are still enough fed cattle available to keep pace. Bids and asking prices started the week at least $1.00 to $2.00 apart, with a mixed market developing midweek.  Fed cattle prices were mostly steady to $2.00/cwt higher in the Northern U.S. and steady to $1.00/cwt lower in the South.

Jeff Swenson

Wholesale beef prices continue to rise. The Choice beef cutout value finished last Friday at $263.26, up $1.80 on the week. The estimated harvest total last week was 668,000, and that was 5,000 head less than the week prior and equaled the same week last year.

Feeder cattle volume has decreased, especially in those areas of the country most impacted by drought. Feeder cattle volume from mid-July to mid-October was 19.7 percent higher than a year ago but has been 6.1 percent lower than last year for the past two weeks. Beef exports have been on a record pace this year, but the latest report showed just net sales of 9,200 metric tons for 2022, and 3,800 metric tons for delivery in 2023.

Mexico, China boost pork exports

Pork exports posted large numbers on the latest weekly report, with net sales of 48,400 metric tons. Mexico was the lead buyer at 12,700 metric tons with China close behind, purchasing 11,200 metric tons. China typically purchases offal and variety meats, but there are reports that muscle cuts were included.

Last week’s estimated hog harvest of 2.557 million head was 14,000 fewer that the prior week and 5,000 head more than the same week last year.  Pork cutout values dropped $2.50, ending last week at $101.34. The weakness continued into this week, as the cutout value was $96.23 Wednesday. Even with the decrease, there are indications demand is good.

The Iowa – Southern Minnesota market hog weights averaged 284.1 pounds last week compared to 288.2 pounds the same week last year. Pork demand has been strong enough to not only keep hog supplies current but has packers willing to pull hogs ahead.

Lamb cutout prices soften

The lamb cutout price continues to be pressured, losing $10.02 last week, finishing Friday with a price of $548.29. The price of U.S. lamb remains higher than its global competitors, but the gap is narrowing. The USDA called lamb prices steady to $30.00/cwt higher last week.

With cash prices higher and harvest numbers for last week 1,000 head lower, it may be packers are making progress on the large supply of heavy lambs. Producers will be watching closely to see if a trend develops. The harvest estimate of 32,000 last week was 5,000 head lower than the same week last year.

Turkey stocks down nearly 5%

The latest USDA cold storage report shows turkey stocks down 4.8 percent in September relative to a year ago, and 25 percent lower than the 2015 to 2019 average. Consumers will certainly be met with higher retail prices but reports of a turkey shortage prior to the holidays is likely overstated.

Pork ending stocks were up 14.5 percent relative to a year ago, with hams down 18 percent from last year. Even with record high ham prices, some consumers are likely to substitute ham for turkey later this month. Beef ending stocks were up 18.9 percent in September relative to a year ago. 

State livestock market roundup

Choice beef breed steers and heifers were steady to higher this week. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $123.00 to $149.00/cwt. Groups of high Choice and Prime lots selling from $150.00 to $158.00/cwt. Choice Holstein steers were mostly steady, bringing $107.00 to $134.00/cwt with high grading Holstein steers bringing $135.00 to $138.00/cwt.  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 higher. A bulk of the cows brought $50.00 to $75.00/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 higher, bringing $50.00 to $120.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $200.00/cwt.  Beef and Beef Cross calves were mostly steady, selling to $360.00/cwt. Market lambs brought $95.00 to $106.00/cwt with some reports of tops to $135.00/cwt with some light market lambs selling higher.