Cattle Outlook: Cattle futures reach new record highs

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Fed cattle prices set new records this week. Live weight prices for slaughter steer reached $130/cwt for the first time ever in October. They made it to $140/cwt for the first time in January, and this week they went above $150/cwt for the first time ever. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $150.66/cwt, up $8.66 from a week ago and up $22.82 from a year ago. Steer sales on a dressed basis averaged $239.98/cwt this week, up $9.98 from a week ago and up $36.68 from year ago. Sales volume was heavy.

Cattle futures also established new record highs this week. The February live cattle futures contract closed at $151.95/cwt today, up $7.40 from last week's close. April fed cattle settled at $144.97, up $3.52 for the week. June settled at $134.20/cwt, up $1.48.

The March feeder cattle futures contract ended the week at $171.70/cwt, up $1.00 for the week. April feeders closed at $173.07/cwt, up $1.87 from the previous Friday. The May feeder cattle contract ended the week at $173.70.

This morning, the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $224.56/cwt, up $9.78 from the previous Friday and up $37.07 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout is $221.66/cwt, up $9.84 from last week and up $36.41 from last year.

U.S. beef demand was up 1.7% in 2013 to the highest level since 2008. Domestic beef demand is 7.4% higher than 15 years ago, which is a bigger increase than for pork, chicken or turkey.

Overall meat demand in 2013 was up 3.0% to the highest level since 2007, which was before the last recession.

Export demand for U.S. beef in 2013 was up 4.9% compared to the year before and was 24.2% greater than 15 years ago. Beef export demand in 2013 was 2.6% lower than in 2003, the last year without BSE.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 567,000 head, up 5.2% from the previous week and up 5.3% from the corresponding week last year.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on February 15 was 862 pounds, down 9 pounds from the week before, and down 8 pounds from a year earlier.

Feeder cattle prices at this week's Oklahoma City auction were $2 lower to $2 higher in good volume. This week's prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight were: 400-450# $210-$237, 450-500# $210-$237, 500-550# $210-$223, 550-600# $183-$212, 600-650# $176-$199, 650-700# $170-$184, 700-750# $166.50-$175.25, 750-800# $162.25-$169.85, 800-900# $151-$164.50, and 900-1000# $146-$156.50/cwt.

Source - Ron Plain and Scott Brown

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