USDA's April Cattle on Feed report says there were 0.6% fewer cattle on feed in large feed yards on April 1 than a year ago. Today's cattle on feed report said March placements were down 4.7% while marketings were down 3.7% compared to March 2013. March placements were down for each weight category except the under 600 pound group which was up 3.7%.
The pre-release trade estimate was for March placements to be up 1.6%, marketings down 3.5% and the April 1 on feed number to be up 0.4%. Since marketings were close to the average of trade predictions while placements were lower, this report is probably slightly positive for the futures market.
The last time the cattle on feed number was above the year-ago level was August 2012.
USDA says there were 404.754 million pounds of beef in cold storage at the end of March. That was 1.2% less than the month before, 20.8% less than a year ago and the lowest for any month since September 2010.
Fed cattle sales volume was so light this week that USDA did not issue their normal 5 area weekly average price quotes.
Boxed beef prices were higher again this week. This morning the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $233.07/cwt, up $6.97 from the previous Friday. The select carcass cutout is $222.07/cwt, up $6.99 from last week.
This week's cattle slaughter totaled 585,000 head, up 3.0% from the previous week, but down 6.4% from the corresponding week last year.
The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on April 12 was 850 pounds, down 1 pound from the week before and down 1 pound from a year earlier.
Feeder cattle prices at this week's Oklahoma City auction were mostly steady to $2 higher. This week's prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight were: 450-500# $239, 500-550# $214-$224.50, 550-600# $209-$224.50, 600-650# $182-$213, 650-700# $183-$199, 700-750# $181.50-$191.50, 750-800# $173.50-$184.75, 800-900# $160.25-$172, and 900-1000# $154.25-$162.75/cwt.
Cattle futures were higher this week. The April live cattle futures contract closed at $145.00/cwt today, up 80 cents from last week's close. June fed cattle settled at $136.77, up $2.40 for the week. August settled at $135.60/cwt, up $2.78 from the previous Friday. October cattle closed at $139.67/cwt.
Feeder cattle futures also were higher for the week. The May feeder cattle contract ended the week at $180/cwt, up $1.95 for the week. August feeders closed at $184.62/cwt, up $3.22 from the previous week. The September feeder cattle contract ended the week at $185.12/cwt.