USDA, as we know, generates prodigious volumes of market data and reports. So do the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade. But among producers, who has the time to search out that information, compile it, analyze it and apply it toward their business decisions?

That, says Rob Cook, is what CattleNetwork.com does for you. Cook is director of CattleNetwork, which like Drovers, is part of Vance Publishing Corporation’s food360° division. The CattleNetwork.com Web site and its associated micro-site CattleTraderCenter.com, he explains, aggregate information from multiple sources, organize it in easy-to-understand formats and analyze key pieces of data. The sites’ tables, charts and reports allow producers to track market trends with a few clicks of the mouse, rather than hours of screen time. Here are a few key sections to get you started.

Cattle Analyzer

This section compiles key daily, weekly and monthly data into one set of tables. The tables track a running six days, six weeks or six months of data, allowing easy comparisons and identification of trends.

Daily information includes CME cattle futures, boxed-beef and pork-cutout prices.

The Cattle Analyzer goes beyond price and production data, however, by providing key price spreads, including those between fed cattle and boxed beef and between wholesale beef prices and pork prices.

The cattle business, Cook explains, is part of the broader protein complex, with prices across that complex influencing those for cattle. The spread between fed-cattle cash prices and the Choice boxed-beef price tends to run about $54 per hundredweight. A widening spread suggests room for cattle prices to move upward, while a narrowing spread indicates packers could reduce their bids to protect margins.

The spread between Choice boxed beef and the pork cutout, Cook says, typically runs around $83 per hundredweight. A narrowing spread, suggesting pork prices are increasing relative to beef, could mean beef prices will move higher, while a widening spread would suggest the opposite.

Weekly data includes slaughter and production, weights, fed-cattle prices, beef exports and beef loads shipped from packing plants. The table also lists commitment of traders, showing open-interest, total-long and total-short contracts, providing insight on which way traders think the market is headed.

The monthly table aggregates import, consumption, retail meat prices, beef storage, cattle on feed, feedyard placements by weight class, feedyard marketings and feedyard occupancy rates. Finally, the page includes links to a variety of charts illustrating production and market trends.

The CattleBoard

This section compiles data from 25 different USDA reports, maintaining five-day listings of futures closing, along with factors that influence cattle prices such as boxed-beef prices, slaughter numbers, shipments of cuts and trimmings, state-regional slaughter numbers and feedyard shipments. CattleNetwork, Cook says, is building more  automation into the data-collection system, so the site will update each figure as soon as it becomes available.

The Crib Sheet

This section provides some simple tools for day-to-day forecasts of where the market is headed. The analysis uses three market indicators — cash beef trade, Choice cutout prices and the Monday Market Sentiment, a projected average fed-cattle price drawn from a weekly survey of feedyard managers and other industry experts.

Part of the table summarizes last week’s trade, listing the week’s average Choice cutout price, the average fed-cattle price and a cattle-trade/boxed-beef ratio. For example, if the average trade price is $84.40 and the boxed-beef average is $143.67, the CTBB ratio is 58.75 percent.

The next section shows this week’s Monday Market Sentiment, a five-day running average of Choice cutout prices and a ratio combining these figures. If for example, the Monday Market Sentiment projects a cattle price of $85.02 and the cutout average is $143.88, the ratio is 59.09 percent.

Next, the table includes the weekly Cattle Trade Predictor. This analysis uses the five-day running average Choice cutout price and a 27-week average of the CTBB ratio. A cutout average of $143.88, for example, multiplied by a CTBB average of 59.21 percent, gives you $85.19 — this week’s predicted cash price.

The page also includes the Cattle Grid, a quick reference based on boxed-beef prices and a scale of CTBB ratios. You can look at today’s cutout price, figure a typical CTBB ratio such as 59 percent, and see what the cattle price should be on that scale.

Quotes and Charts

On one page, users have access to futures prices for a full range of commodities, including livestock, grains, energy, minerals, stock indices, financials and currencies, updated every 10 minutes. Users also can access reports and develop their own custom quotes and charts for selected commodities.

CattleTraderCenter

This micro-site powered by CattleNetwork assembles a number of key reports into one location for easy access. These include:

  • The Crib Sheet
  • The Cattle Analyzer
  • The Cattle Board
  • Monday Market Sentiment
  • Central U.S. Daily Direct Feedlot Cattle
  • Cattle Trader’s Scorecard
  • Cattle on Feed — CattleNetwork’s detailed breakdown of U.S., state-by-state and Canadian on-feed inventories and historical data.