Pork exports continue to gain momentum

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

Cattle harvest is running 1% behind 2022 year-to-date. Last week’s estimate of 630,000 head was 11,000 lower than the previous week and 41,000 less than the same week last year. Cash cattle finished higher last week. A decrease in cow volume continues to push market cow prices higher. The Choice beef cutout value finished last week $2.10 higher at $269.66.

While speaking at the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association Winter Conference last week, Patrick Linnell of CattleFax said his organization expects the Choice cutout value to average $270 in 2023. CattleFax expects the fed cattle price to average 53% of the cutout value. When adding a $15 per head drop credit, their fed steer average price projection for 2023 is $158/cwt.

U.S. beef exports set records for both volume and value in 2022, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Beef exports reached 1.47 million metric tons (mt), up 2% from the previous high in 2021. Export value climbed to a record $11.68 billion, up 10% from 2021 and nearly 40% above the previous five-year average. Beef export value equated to a record $447.58 per head 2022, up 10% from the previous high in 2021. Exports accounted for 15.2% of beef production.

Pork cutout value rises

The pork cutout value finished last week at $81.05, slightly higher than the previous week. Estimated harvest totals were lower at 2.498 million head. That is 97,000 less hogs than the previous week, and 15,000 fewer than the same week last year. Carcass weights continue to be lower than a year ago.

Pork exports continued to gain momentum in December and finished strong in 2022. Pork exports finished lower year-over-year, but export value was the third largest on record, trailing only the highs reached in 2020 and 2021.

Pork exports to Mexico posted another volume record in December. These results pushed 2022 exports to Mexico to a record 959,701 mt, up 10% from a year ago, while export value was 21% higher to $2.03 billion, topping the $2 billion mark for the first time. Pork export value equated to $61.26 per head in 2022, down 2.5% year-over-year. Exports accounted for 27.5% of total 2022 pork production.

Lamb harvest up

Cash lambs were mostly steady last week. Harvest totals are still running ahead of a year ago. Last week’s estimate of 35,000 head was 1,000 more than the previous week, and 5,000 head more than the same week last year. The increased supply has pressured wholesale lamb prices as the cutout value fell $4.83 last week to finish at $533.58.

The increased pace has put a dent in Colorado feedlot inventories. The Feb. 1 inventory of 128,769 head is 32,630 lower than a month earlier and 7% below the five-year average. Despite a slowdown in December, exports of U.S. lamb muscle cuts finished 2022 sharply higher year-over-year at 2,225 mt, up 59% and the largest since 2019. Export value increased 49% to $13.2 million, also the highest since 2019.

Growth was led by strengthening demand in the Caribbean. Exports trended higher to the region’s three leading markets: the Netherlands Antilles, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. Exports also increased substantially year-over-year to Mexico, Canada, the Philippines and Taiwan.

State livestock market roundup

Fed cattle prices at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were steady to higher. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought $133 to $156/cwt. Groups of high Choice and Prime lots sold from $153 to $162/cwt with some packages selling higher.

The Holstein steer market was mostly steady to lower this week ranging from $113 to $140/cwt with a few packages selling to $147. Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $77 to $113/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were bringing $107 to $150/cwt.

Cows were $2 higher. A bulk of the cows brought $62 to $82/cwt with some selling into the high $90s. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $62/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were steady to lower, bringing $50 to $150/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves selling up to $200/cwt. Beef and Beef Cross calves were lower, selling to $390/cwt. Market lambs were higher with shorn lambs bringing $150 to $175/cwt with unshorn lambs bringing $140 to $155/cwt.