Spring green-up was mostly three weeks to a month early across cattle country this year and cattle markets look like they may have peaked early, too. A seasonal trend that corresponds with spring is the start of grilling season for consumers, but demand for grilling items has yet to improve leaving boxed beef prices much softer than during mid-March. As a result, packers continued to struggle with negative margins last week.
The fed cattle market held steady to slightly higher last week, with sales in the South at $122 to $122.50. Cattle traded in Northern feedyards at $122 to $123.50 per hundredweight live, and $192 to $197 on a dressed basis.
Boxed beef cutout values held mostly steady to slightly higher for the week. Choice boxed beef traded Friday at $178.51 per hundredweight, up $0.90 from the previous Friday, but still nearly $9 per hundredweight below three weeks ago. The Select price on Friday was $177.33 per hundredweight, an increase of $2.03 from last week. The Choice-Select spread was $1.18 per hundredweight, compared to $2.31 the previous week.
Feeder cattle prices were steady to $4 higher for the week, while calves were steady to $3 lower.
USDA Market News Reporter Corbitt Wall says last week’s feeder cattle mirrored the fed cattle trading session that saw early week pressure followed by a mild but measurable rally.
“Cattlemen are hoping that the market just needed a couple weeks of correction to catch its breath before continuing a bullish path with fundamental factors still fully supportive,” Wall said. “On the other hand, packers are struggling to keep dressed beef cut-out values within shouting distance of the whole dressed carcass (177.00 vs. 195.00) and at the same time keep from tipping their short-bought hand to feedlot managers yearning to return the fat market to 130.00.”
Last week’s auction receipts totaled 166,500, compared to 206,800 the previous week and 2254,200 last year. Direct sales of stocker and feeder cattle totaled 15,600, with video/Internet sales at 68,800. The weekly total was 250,900, compared to 386,600 a year ago.
Slaughter cows sold steady to as much as $4 higher, mostly on extremely tight supplies. Corn prices moved lower last week, with Omaha cash corn at $6.47 per bushel on Friday, 20 cents per bushel lower than the previous week.