Beef, cattle markets hit new record highs

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In the first week of 2014, all classes of beef cattle and beef values climbed to record price levels. According to USDA Market News Reporter Corbitt Wall, compared to the last good test of feeder cattle the week of December 20, feeder cattle and calves sold 3.00-10.00 higher, with instances as much as 20.00 higher. On the beef side of the equation, both Select and Choice cuts blew past previous records set in May 2013 as Choice cuts topped $214 and Select cuts topped $211.

While receipts were fairly light last week due to continued frigid temperatures, feeder cattle markets were hot. At the livestock auction in Bassett, Neb., 350 head of top quality steers averaging 638 pounds brought $211.34. Additionally, more than 150 head of fancy 581 pound steers averaged $229.41. Wall says the nearly 400 head of Sandhill reputation heifers weighting between 600 and 700 pounds sold higher than the steers, but Wall says “some rationale could be realized as most of these were purchased for replacements.”

Cattle and beef prices are experiencing record prices, but corn feel the its lowest level in more than three years last week. The monthly USDA World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimate (WASDE) report reduced the 2013 corn yield to an average of 158.8 bushels per acre, down 1.6 bushels. Corn end stocks for 2013-2014 were projected at 161 million bushels lower at 1.6 billion, and the 2013-2014 average range for corn prices narrowed to $4.10 to $4.70 per bushel, according to WASDE.

The reported auction volume last week included 62 percent over 600 pounds and 40 percent heifers.

Last week, auction receipts totaled 235,900 with an additional 53,300 from direct sales and 17,500 in video/Internet sales for a total of 306,400. Auction volumes last week were 190,600 higher than the previous week but 109,200 lower than the same time last year. Last week’s total was 204,600 higher than the previous week but 93,700 lower than the total a year ago at this time.  

Fed cattle prices finished the week ending Friday, Jan. 10 at $139.54 per hundredweight, compared to $137.46 the previous week. On a dressed basis, steers sold for $221.48 per hundredweight.

With Select cuts topping $200 last week, the Choice/Select spread continued its recent narrowing trend and finished the week ending January 10 at $3.40. Choice cuts sold for $214.98, while Select cuts sold at $ 211.58. Boxed beef prices on the morning of Friday, January 10, averaged $213.05, up $13.15.

For the week ending January 10, beef production in the United States totaled 455.9 million pounds, compared to 417.9 million pounds the previous week and 497 million pounds at this time last year. Last week’s cattle slaughter totaled 569,000, up from 521,000 the previous week but down from 626,000 at this time last year.

USDA's Cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday morning was $172.44.

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Michael J. Marsalek    
Bel Air, Maryland  |  January, 13, 2014 at 09:00 AM

Along with record high beef prices, we also have record high unemployment, record high under-employment and a record high number of people on food stamps. Are these things Americans should be celebrating?

Nebraska  |  January, 14, 2014 at 10:52 AM

While it is tragic that there are so many people unemployed and/or on food stamps I don't believe that is the fault of the rancher/producer. Nor is it the fault of the rancher that many of those people won't help themselves. The beef industry has had it's hardships. One of which was a horrible drought, another was a horrendous freak fall blizzard known as Atlas, which you may or may not have heard or due to the lack of national news covering it. Both of which, many are continuing to deal with either directly or indirectly. The article was about the current prices of beef and what factors lead to this, NOT why the ranchers and beef industry is at fault for the unemployment issues of the country. Why is it necessary to "read" other issues into it.

Mike Noel    
Johnson Canyon Utah  |  January, 15, 2014 at 10:21 PM

After 39 years in the cow calf business, I am finally seeing some good returns on my labor. Yes it's sad that people are out of work and on food stamps, but the fact that the Farmer and ranchers in this country continue to work hard and supply beef and corn and food for the nation and the world is a good thing. Count your blessings that we can still make a living and live the lives we do while feeding the poor. Mike Noel

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