Cattle Outlook: Beef in Cold Storage Down

US - Beef in cold storage at the end of September was down 1.7 per cent from the month before and down 0.5 per cent from a year ago. The 425.6 million pounds of frozen beef was the third lowest for any month since the end of 2010, writes Ron Plain and Scott Brown, University of Missouri.
calendar icon 29 October 2012
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Ron Plain
Ron Plain

USDA’s October cattle on feed report said that the number of steers on feed was up 0.4 per cent, but the number of heifers in feedlots was down 7.7 per cent. The percent on feed that are heifers, 35.8 per cent, was the lowest for any October since 2005.

Through mid October, 2012 cow slaughter is down 4.6 per cent with beef cow slaughter down 13.2 per cent and dairy cow slaughter up 6.2 per cent. Since the end of July, beef cow slaughter is down 20 per cent compared to a year ago. The decline in beef cow slaughter and the decline in heifers on feed imply cow-calf producers are moving to herd expansion. Given feed prices and the magnitude of this summer’s drought, I am amazed at the huge decline in beef cow slaughter.

Fed cattle prices were higher this week. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $126.61/cwt, up $1.89 from last week and up $5.83 from the same week last year. Steer prices on a dressed basis averaged $197.96/cwt this week, up $2.71 from a week ago and up $7.26 from a year ago.

Beef cutout values were a bit higher this week. On Friday morning, choice boxed beef carcass cutout value was $197.48/cwt, up 68 cents from last Friday and up $9.27 from a year ago. This week select carcass cutout was up 90 cents from the previous week to $181.27/cwt.

Cattle slaughter totaled 641,000 head this week, up 1.1 per cent from the week before, but down 4.6 per cent from the same week last year. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending October 13 was 880 pounds, unchanged from the week before and up 23 pounds from a year ago. This was the 40th consecutive week steer weights have been above the year-earlier level. Year-to-date cattle slaughter is down 4.2 per cent, but beef production is down only 2.0 per cent.

Oklahoma City auction cattle prices were steady to $6 higher on stocker calves and $1 to $3 higher on feeder cattle this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers: 400-450# $177-$202, 450-500# $172-$185, 500-550# $159-$179, 550-600# $152.50-$168.50, 600-650# $145-$157.75, 650-700# $136-$153, 700-750# $140-$150.75, 750-800# $135-$149.50, 800-900# $134-$147, and 900-1000# $122-$147/cwt.

The October live cattle futures contract settled at $125.50/cwt, down 80 cents from the previous Friday. December cattle closed at $125.25/cwt, down $2.02 for the week. February fed cattle contracts settled at $129.17/cwt. The April fed cattle contract ended the week at $133.40.

November feeder cattle futures ended the week at $145.32/cwt, $3.05 lower than last Friday. January feeders settled at $147.07/cwt.

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