The same moisture that is slowing down corn planting in a handful of states (Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Texas all trail their recent 5-year average planting rate) is contributing to good pasture conditions in important beef cow producing areas. 71% of pasture was rated in good or excellent condition in Texas for the week ending May 24, similar to the previous week and higher than any other weekly reading since September 2007. Oklahoma pastures were 63% good or excellent, highest since August 2010. Beef cow herd expansion will continue in earnest with conditions such as these.
Today's release of the May survey of U.S. consumers by the University of Michigan indicated a drop in consumer sentiment of 5.4% relative to April, though the index is still 10.7% above the year ago level. For the first five months of the year the consumer sentiment index is averaging a level higher than any year since 2004. The Restaurant Performance Index was at 102.7 in April, the 26th consecutive month with a reading indicating expansion for the restaurant industry.
On the international front, U.S. dollar strength continues to constrain exports. The trade-weighted dollar index against major currencies has grown again recently, and though it remains below the levels of March and early April, it is still at a higher level than any other time since 2003. Monthly meat export data through April will be released next week.
Fed cattle prices fell for the second week in a row. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $158.49/cwt, down $1.49 from last week but still up $14.33 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers retreated $1.95 this week to $249.71/cwt. This remains $18.95 higher than last year's dressed price average.
Boxed beef cutout values also declined this week. The cutout value for choice carcasses this morning was $255.11/cwt, down $5.69 from last Friday but up $21.79 from a year ago. The select cutout was $243.57/cwt, resulting in a choice-select spread of $11.54/cwt, down from $12.80/cwt last week.
Cattle slaughter totaled 525 thousand head this holiday-shortened week, down 2.8% from the same week last year. Year to date cattle slaughter trails 2014 by 7.0%. The average dressed weight for steers slaughtered the week ending May 16 was 867 pounds, down 3 pounds from last week but 27 pounds heavier than the same week last year.
There was no feeder cattle sale this week at Oklahoma City due to the Memorial Day holiday.
The June live cattle futures contract closed at $152.50/cwt today, up 38 cents for the week. August fed cattle settled at $151.52/cwt and October at $153.10. The August feeder cattle contract jumped $4.02 on the week to end at $223.02/cwt.
July corn closed today at $3.515/bu, down 8.5 cents from last Friday.