The number of cattle on feed at the start of November is above the year-ago level for the first time since August 2012. Fed cattle prices continue to set new records buoyed by record retail beef prices. The 5 area price for slaughter steers averaged $164.60/cwt in October. That is up $3.10 from the record set in September and up $35.60 from October 2013. The average retail price for all fresh beef set a new record in October at $5.957 per pound. That is up 4.9 cents from the month before and up 98.5 cents compared to October 2013.
After eight consecutive months with new record highs, the average price of choice beef at retail dropped 1.5 cents in October to $6.241 per pound. Grocery store prices for choice beef were 88.6 cents higher than in October 2013. Fed cattle prices set new records this week in light sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $169.00/cwt, up $1.47 from last week's average and up $38.57 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers was $265.00/cwt, up $3 for the week and up $58.55 from the same week last year.
Boxed beef prices are the highest since August. This morning the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $255.65/cwt, up $2.78 from the previous Friday and up $57.26 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout is $243.33/cwt, up $4.98 from last week and up $56.50 from a year ago. This week's cattle slaughter totaled 567,000 head, up 1.2% from the previous week, but down 8.7% from the corresponding week last year. This was the 38th consecutive week with cattle slaughter below the year-ago level. Slaughter weights continue to rise. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on November 8 was a record 903 pounds, up 1 pound from the week before and up 26 pounds compared to the same week last year.
Feeder cattle prices at this week's Oklahoma City auction were mostly $1 to $4 higher on heavier weights and $5 to $10 higher on calves. The demand for calves to go on wheat pasture remains strong. This week's prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight were: 400-450# $342.50-$374, 450-500# $313-$326, 500-550# $289-$317, 550-600# $289-$304.50, 600-650# $250-$286, 650-700# $240-$254.50, 700-750# $232-$248, 750-800# $233.50-$240.50, 800-900# $213.50-$238, and 900-1000# $218.50-$219.75/cwt.
The December live cattle futures contract settled at $170.90, up 70 cents for the week. February settled at $171.15/cwt, up 88 cents from the previous Friday. The April contract closed at $170.42/cwt with a gain of $1.17 for the week. The January feeder cattle contract ended the week at $236.35/cwt, up 23 cents for the week. March feeders closed at $234.45/cwt, down 15 cents compared to last Friday. April feeder ended the week at $234.60/cwt.