Beef cow slaughter outpacing '21 totals

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 USDA released its Monthly Livestock Slaughter report last week showing beef production in October 2% higher than the same month in 2021. Heifer harvest is still running 5% higher year-to-date. Beef cow slaughter is out pacing 2021 by 13%. Beef cow harvest has been higher than last year for 70 consecutive weeks. Cow plus heifer harvest has made up 51% of the total this year, making it the highest percentage since 1986.

Speaking to Brownfield Ag News, University of Missouri Ag Economist Scott Brown broke down beef cow harvest by region. In Region 6 (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas) beef cow harvest is up 30% year-to-date and running 55% higher than 2019. Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska) beef cow harvest is 34% higher year-to-date and 30% higher than 2019; Region 5 which includes Wisconsin as well as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio, is seeing beef cow harvest 10.9% below 2021 year-to-date.

The estimated harvest total for last week was an impressive 581,000 head given the holiday. It was 93,000 head below the previous week, but 13,000 more than Thanksgiving week last year. The Choice beef carcass cutout value finished last week at $251.83 and that was $3.04 lower than the previous week.

While pork production falls, imports rise

Pork production was 1 percent lower in October compared to last year in both pounds and head harvested. Live hog weights for the month averaged 288 pounds, unchanged from a year ago. Per capita pork supply is expected to be 51.4 pounds this year.

Pork production is down, but imports are up 20% and exports are down 9% ; thus the per capita pork supply is 0.3 pounds more than last year. While most of the imported pork is coming from Canada, every major foreign supplier, except Poland, has been shipping more pork to the United States this year according to a November 28 web article from the National Hog Farmer.

The pork carcass cutout value continues to decline, losing $5.81 to finish last week at $87.63. Pork belly prices are the main cause of the price decline. Ham primals are currently higher than bellies – something that rarely happens except during some Winter Holiday Seasons. The last time hams were higher than bellies was briefly in December 2020.

Last week’s estimated harvest total was 2.223 million hogs, compared to 2.559 million the previous week and 2.555 million Thanksgiving week a year ago.

Lamb carcass cutout value improves

Many of the weekly sheep and lamb reports were not published last week due to the Thanksgiving holiday.  The lamb carcass cutout value was $545.16 on Tuesday this week – an improvement over the $538.00 seen Friday, November 18. Seasonal demand is helping lamb prices.

Lamb and mutton production in October was 9 percent below the same month last year. The average live weight was 122 pounds, up one pound from a year ago.

Cash fed lambs are below the prices seen a year ago, but still above the five-year average. Estimated harvest for Thanksgiving week was 29,000 head, and that was 11,000 below the previous week and 5,000 less than the same week last year.

State livestock market roundup

The price spread between Choice and Select beef at the wholesale level is causing a wide price range for fed cattle as packers seek cattle likely to grade Choice or higher. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $125.00 to $152.00/cwt. Groups of high Choice and Prime lots sold from $153.00 to $163.00/cwt.

Choice Holstein steers were steady bringing $109.00 to $135.00/cwt with high grading Holstein steers bringing selling into the low $140’s. Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75.00 to $109.00/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were bringing $105.00 to $146.00/cwt.

Cows were steady. A bulk of the cows brought $45.00 to $70.00/cwt with some selling into the low 80’s. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $45.00/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were steady to higher, bringing $50.00 to $135.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $180.00/cwt. Beef and Beef Cross calves were steady, selling to $350.00/cwt. Market lambs brought $110.00 to $124.00/cwt with some lighter lambs selling to $150.00 cwt.