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Cattle Outlook: Report Reveals Fewer Cattle in Large Feedlots

27 December 2016
Ron Plain
Ron Plain

US - USDA's December "Cattle on Feed" report said there were 1.4 per cent fewer cattle in large feedlots on 1 December than a year ago, write Ron Plain and Scott Brown, Ag Economics, MU.

It said placements were up 15 per cent and marketings were up 16.6 per cent in November. Placements were the highest for any November since 2013. Marketings were the highest for any November since 2006.

These numbers were in line with the pre-release trade forecast which predicted placements were up 13.3 per cent and marketings were up 16.5 per cent year-over-year. The trade expected the number on feed 1 December to be down 1.4 per cent from last year.

November steer and heifer slaughter was up 17.5 per cent year-over-year. The calculated average placement weights in November were slightly higher than a year ago. The increased placements were mostly in the 600-800 pound categories.

The Livestock Marketing Information Center has estimated the average loss for closeouts at southern plains feedlots was $91.06 per head in November. That compares to a loss of $203.71/head the month before and a loss of $490.87/head a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were higher this week on heavy sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $115.14/cwt, up $4.91 from last week's average, but down $8.36 from a year ago. The 5-area dressed steer price averaged $179.79/cwt, up $9.48 from the week before and down $19.81 from a year ago.

Beef cutout value was also higher this week. This morning, the choice boxed beef cutout value was $199.01/cwt, up $4.24 from the previous Friday and $1.38 higher than a year ago. The select carcass cutout this morning was $187.07/cwt, up $6.37 from last week.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 572,000 head, down 4.5 per cent from last week, but up 41.6 per cent from the same week last year, which included Christmas Day.

The average steer dressed weight during the week ending on 10 December was 908 pounds. That is down 5 pounds from the week before and down 1 pound from a year ago.

Stocker and feeder cattle prices were steady this week at the Oklahoma City auction. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $153, 450-500# NR, 500-550# $137.50-$156, 550-600# $134, 600-650# $127.50-$134.50, 650-700# $129.50-$136, 700-750# $129-$137, 750-800# $123-$132.50, 800-900# $125-$137.50, and 900-1000# $125-$131.50/cwt.

Cattle futures were higher this week. The December live cattle futures contract settled at $114.57/cwt today, up $2.25 for the week. February live cattle gained 95 cents this week and closed at $116.30/cwt. The April contract settled at $114.32, up 72 cents for the week.

The January feeder cattle futures contract ended the week at $131.12/cwt, up $1.22 from a week earlier. March feeder cattle gained 87 cents this week to settle at $127.17/cwt. April feeder cattle settled at $126.62/cwt.

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