Cattle on Feed report offers little in way of surprises

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 released Friday, Jan. 20, didn’t offer much in the way of surprises as it was in line with pre-report estimates.

Cattle placed into feedlots during December totaled 1.8 million head, 8% below the same month in 2021. The largest decrease in placements were in cattle weighing less than 600 lbs. It is notable that the number of heifers placed was down 0.5%, making it the first year-over-year quarterly decrease since July 2021.

The cattle on feed inventory on Jan. 1 was 11.7 million head, a decrease of 3% compared to a year ago. While the supply of fed cattle will decrease in 2023, Scott Brown from the University of Missouri was quick to point out during his weekly market segment with Brownfield Ag News that overall beef production won’t drop as much as some expect.

He noted that beef production per cow is 14.1% higher than it was in 2000, as their offspring entering the feedlot achieve higher finished weights. Finished weights have even increased since 2014 when cattle numbers were low.

The USDA also released a monthly Livestock Slaughter report last week showing December beef production 5.8% below Dec. 2021. In looking at 2022 as a whole, beef cow harvest was 10.9% higher than 2021, while heifer harvest was up 4.8%. Steer harvest was down 2.1%.

Estimated harvest last week was 646,000 head, 15,000 less than the previous week and 9,000 higher than a year ago. Cash fed cattle prices last week were $2.50/cwt lower while the Choice beef cutout value fell $6.80 to finish the week at $271.72.

Lower pork production fails to buoy prices

The USDA’s Livestock Slaughter report quantified the decrease in pork production in 2022. In all, 3.547 million fewer barrows and gilts were harvested compared to 2021. December pork production alone was 7.2% below 2021.

The lower production has not buoyed prices recently as cash hogs were another $1.90 lower last week. The carcass cutout value fell as well, losing $1.50 last week to finish at $79.99. Lean Hog futures contracts continue to be pressured.

Hog harvest has been running ahead of expectations recently, however. The USDA’s December Hogs and Pigs report expected a 1.9% decrease in heavy weight hog supply, although the decrease has been just 0.3%. The estimated harvest last week was 2.531 million, 153,000 fewer hogs than the previous week and 95,000 more than the same week last year.

Just as with beef, Scott Brown of the University of Missouri pointed out that increased efficiency will prevent a steep drop in pork supply. Brown said pork per sow is 45% higher than 2000. Pork export sales had a good week with the latest report indicating 44,700 metric tons sold to foreign buyers.

December lamb/mutton production hits record low

December saw record low lamb and mutton production of 10.9 million pounds, making it 7% lower than Dec. 2021. Sheep and lamb harvest for 2022 was 7% below the previous year. Last week’s estimated harvest of 32,000 head was 2,000 less than the previous week and 2,000 head more than the same week last year. Fed lamb prices last week were $2 to $5/cwt higher with the lamb carcass cutout value gaining $5.49 to close the week at $541.72. 

State livestock market roundup

Fed cattle prices at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were steady to $1 lower. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $133 to $152/cwt. Groups of high Choice and Prime lots sold from $153 to $162/cwt with packages selling higher.

The Holstein steer market was fully steady to higher this week ranging from $113 to $139/cwt with a few packages selling to $145. Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $77 to $113/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were bringing $107 to $147/cwt.

Cows were $2 to $3 higher. A bulk of the cows brought $53 to $75/cwt with some selling into the low $90s. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $50cwt and down. Dairy breed bull calves were higher, bringing $80 to $175/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves higher this week, selling up to $200/cwt. Beef and Beef Cross calves were steady, selling to $380/cwt. Market lambs brought $120 to $132/cwt. There were reports of small groups of light lambs selling higher.