Fed cattle pass $130 on the way to new record highs

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Cash cattle prices moved up to $5 higher last week sailing to $134 per hundredweight, passing the previous record of $130 in March 2012.

Cash and futures markets are improving as cattle supplies remain tight and beef prices top $200. Market direction may be influenced in the coming months if consumers opt for pork and chicken as beef prices are expected to continue higher.

Prices improved with tight yearling supplies and improved heifer demand with increased heifer retention and interest in herd expansion as producers look to take advantage of low feed costs. Calves, especially heifer calves, dominated receipts according to USDA Market News reporter Corbitt Wall, with heavy sales observed in mountain states.

There was a bias against mixed quality and color unweaned bawlers which may require some extra attention. Losses were also noted on heavier steer calves over 500 pounds.

According to Wall’s weekly feeder cattle recap, the Philip, SD Livestock Auction featured over 12,000 head of feeders including over 3,350 head of top quality 5 weight steer calves that averaged 549 pounds at $191.01, plus over 500 head of 4 weight heifer calves pegged to be future cows that averaged 478 pounds at $195.53. 

Auction receipts for the first full week following the government shutdown totaled 320,400. That was above the 135,000 last week and higher than the 302,700 a year earlier. Direct sales last week added an extra 59,200 and video/Internet brought in 3,400 for a total of 383,000. Last week’s total was well above the 202,900 recorded last week and just a few thousand higher than the 381,100 total of a year ago.

Boxed beef prices averaged $200.97 for Choice cuts and $185.40 for Select cuts, up $4.68 and $5.42 respectively compared to the previous Friday. The Choice-Select spread is $15.57, narrowing by 74 cents compared to the previous Friday. Slaughter cattle numbers declined from a week earlier, down 1,700 head to 118,900.

Slaughter cattle were $3-$4 higher in the South Plains and Midwest. USDA’s cutter cow carcass cut-out value Friday was $156.99. Steers and heifers sold for $207 and $208 on a dressed basis.

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