USDA expected to lower 2023 beef production estimates

Jeff Swenson
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.

Recent weakness in wholesale beef prices indicate Holiday needs are mostly met. The USDA is expected to lower 2023 beef production estimates in the December World Supply and Demand Estimate (WASDE) report. There is little doubt the supply of market-ready cattle will be the smallest seen since 2014

. Fed cattle are selling $15.00/cwt higher than this time last year, with the Choice beef cutout value trailing year ago levels by about $12.00. Cash cattle were higher last week but trended lower this week.

Tighter beef supplies will be a headline throughout the coming year along with consumers’ willingness or resistance to pay higher retail prices. Last week’s estimated harvest total was 663,000 head, 67,000 more than Thanksgiving week and 19,000 head less than the same week last year.

This begins the trend of harvest totals below year ago levels we will see throughout 2023. Feeder cattle were called $6.00 to $10.00/cwt higher nationally last week. Shorter supplies will support higher feeder cattle prices, although demand and input costs could be limiting factors.

Exchange rates have made U.S. beef less competitive on the global market, but exports have still maintained their record pace. Beef exports in October were higher than a year ago. October beef export value equated to $424.82 per head, down 3 percent from a year ago, but the January-October average was still up 17 percent to $459.50. Exports accounted for 15.3 percent of total October beef production.

Cash hog, wholesale prices dropping

Cash hog prices were $2.50/cwt lower last week with wholesale prices also dropping. The carcass cutout value lost $4.32 to finish Friday at $88.94 and were continuing to fall this week. A year ago, the value was just over $90.00.

The U.S. pork price is now lower than Europe’s and that should help exports. Pork exports in October were the highest since June 2021 reaching 238,198 metric tons, up 5 percent from a year ago.

For January through October, pork exports were 12 percent below last year at 2.18 million metric tons valued at $6.26 billion (down 8%). Last week’s harvest estimate of 2.590 million head was 377,000 higher than the previous week which included a holiday and 66,000 less than the same week last year. 

Holidays help wholesale lamb prices

Families wanting to enjoy lamb as part of their Holiday Season meals will find prices lower than last year. Holiday demand seems to be helping wholesale lamb prices, as the carcass cutout value gained over $9.00 from the middle of last week and finished Friday at $547.10.

Cash lamb prices were called steady to $20.00/cwt high last week. Exports of U.S. lamb muscle cuts were 18 percent higher year-over-year in October.

Export value was also up 18 percent. Through October, lamb muscle cut exports increased 67 percent. The growth has been driven mainly by the Caribbean, but in October, exports were also helped by larger shipments to Canada and Taiwan.

State livestock market roundup

Fed cattle prices were steady to lower compared to last week, with notable weakness at mid-week. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $125.00 to $151.00/cwt. Groups of high Choice and Prime lots sold from $152.00 to $159.00/cwt. Choice Holstein steers were steady bringing $109.00 to $131.00/cwt with high grading Holstein steers selling to $138.00 with a few packages higher.

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 to $2.00 lower. A bulk of the cows brought $45.00 to $68.00/cwt with some selling into the high $70.00s. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $44.00/cwt and down.

Feeder cattle are seeing good demand in the state. Dairy breed bull calves were lower, bringing $50.00 to $110.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $150.00/cwt. Beef and Beef Cross calves were steady, selling to $350.00/cwt.

Market lambs brought $110.00 to $127.00/cwt with a few to $130.00/cwt. There were reports of small groups of lighter weight market lambs bringing $185.00 to $300.00/cwt, although those prices were limited to only a small number of auction markets.