Boning cow prices in Oklahoma City were reported at just over $102/cwt. in the first week of March. This level suggests that March slaughter cow prices will exhibit a more than seasonal price increase. Cull cow prices typically advance from November lows to a May peak that averages nearly 19 percent higher than November price levels. Slaughter cow prices in January averaged $89.06/cwt. (OKC), close to the average seasonal increase of nearly 6 percent over November prices. February cull cow prices averaged $97.19, a slightly more than seasonal increase of nearly 15 percent over the November price. March appears to be continuing the uptrend with current prices already well above seasonally projected price levels for March compared to November.
All of this follows unusually strong cull cow prices in the second half of 2013. Relative to the 2013 annual average price of $84.38/cwt. for boning cows in OKC, prices from August through the end of the year were all above seasonal levels. The November price of $84.63/cwt. was not the seasonal low for the year (January was the low at $80.63/cwt.) and was some $8/cwt. above typical seasonal November lows compared to the annual average price. There have been times in the past when a stronger than expected fall cow price is offset by a weaker than expected seasonal price increase into the following spring. Such is not the case this year with cull cow prices increasing at or above seasonal levels so far in 2014. The early March prices already exceed the projected seasonal peak for May based on the November price level. Cull cow prices may stay at $100/cwt. or higher thorough the normal May peak before dropping slightly this summer. If herd expansion plans move forward on adequate or better forage conditions, cull cow prices will likely stay above $90/cwt. for the remainder of the year and average in the mid $90s or higher.
Slaughter cow prices are being supported by strength from both supply and demand. Wholesale cow boxed beef prices have increased 14 percent since the beginning of the year largely on ground beef demand. Wholesale 90 percent lean boneless beef trimmings prices have jumped 17 percent since January 1. For the year to date, cow slaughter is down 10.6 percent with dairy cow slaughter down nearly 12 percent and beef cow slaughter down over 9 percent. The year over year decreases in dairy cow slaughter are expected to moderate but beef cow slaughter may be down 10-15 percent for the year leading to a total cow slaughter decline of 6-9 percent compared to 2013 levels. This will continue to support slaughter cow prices through 2014.