The amount of beef in cold storage at the end of April, 510 million pounds, was down 0.2% from the month before and down 1.5% from a year ago.

USDA’s May Cattle on Feed report said the number of cattle in large feedlots at the start of May was down 3.4% from a year ago. This was the 9th consecutive month with fewer cattle than a year earlier and the lowest for May since 2010.

April placements were up 15.1%, largely due to very low placements in April 2012. The calculated average placement weight of cattle placed on feed in April was up 1% from a year earlier. April feedlot marketings were up 2.2%, due to one extra slaughter day. This was the most April marketings since 2010.

After a very slow start, the corn crop is going into the ground fast. As of May 12, 28% of corn acres were planted. A week later, 71% was planted. That means nearly 6 million acres were planted per day for that seven day period. More than a million acres per day were planted in Iowa alone.

Fed cattle prices held steady this week. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $124.45/cwt, down 34 cents from last week, but up $3.18/cwt from the same week last year. Steer prices on a dressed basis averaged $199.85/cwt this week, up 9 cents from a week ago and up $6.35 from a year ago.

The choice beef cutout value set a new record on Thursday of $211.37/cwt. This morning, the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $209.93/cwt, up 97 cents from the previous Friday and up $15.22 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout is at $191.11/cwt, down $1.41 for the week. The choice-select price spread is $18.82/cwt, the most since mid December.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 648,000 head, down 0.6% from last week, but up 1.2% from a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on May 11 was 842 pounds, up 3 pounds from the week before and up 7 pounds from a year ago. This was the 70th consecutive week with average steer weight above the year-earlier level.

Oklahoma City feeder cattle prices were steady to $5 lower this week with prices for medium and large frame #1 steers: 450-500# $161-$165, 500-550# $150-$155.50, 550-600# $127-$157.50, 600-650# $137-$149.75, 650-700# $132-$139.25, 700-750# $130-$137.50, 750-800# $123-$134.50, 800-900# $117.50-$130.75, and 900-1000# $114-$119.75/cwt.

The June live cattle futures contract closed at $120.57/cwt today, up $1.17 from last week’s close. The August fed cattle contract gained 67 cents from last Friday to settle at $119.22/cwt. October fed cattle futures settled at $122.80/cwt and December at $124.80/cwt..

August feeder cattle futures settled at $144.55/cwt, up $1.18 for the week. The September contract gained 97 cents to close at $146.67/cwt. October ended the week at $148.52/cwt.

Source: Ron Plain and Scott Brown