There were nearly 521 million pounds of beef in cold storage at the end of September. This was up 9.3% from the month before, up 4.5% from a year ago, and the most frozen beef for any month since January 2003. Stocks of frozen pork totaled 642 million pounds on September 30. That is up 5.4% from the last day of August, but down 2.1% from a year ago.
The October cattle on feed report said September placements were down 1.9% and marketings were up 5.5%. The on-feed number is up 0.4% compared to last year. September placements totaled 1.905 million head, the fewest for any September since USDA started this data series in 1996. September placements of cattle weighing 800 pounds or more were 3.1% below the year-ago level. This was the first down month for placements since July 2014.
In an indication that heifer retention may be slowing a bit, the October report said the number of steers on feed was down 1.6%, but heifers were up 4.4% compared to October 1, 2015.
Fed cattle prices were higher this week on light sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $103.13/cwt, up $4.89 from last week's average, but down $33.64 from a year ago. The 5-area dressed steer price averaged $161.77/cwt, up $7.75 from the week before, but down $48.02 from a year ago.
Beef cutout value is higher this week. This morning, the choice boxed beef cutout value was $183.11/cwt, up $3.14 from the previous Friday. The select carcass cutout this morning was $169.89/cwt, up $2.31 from last week.
This week's cattle slaughter totaled 613,000 head, up 1.8% from last week and up 10.5% from a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on October 15 was 915 pounds, up 4 pounds from the week before, down 15 pounds from a year ago, and below the year-ago level for the 24th consecutive week.
Cattle prices were steady to higher this week at the Oklahoma City auction. Both stocker calves and feeder cattle prices were steady to $5 higher. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $129-146, 450-500# $123-$142.50, 500-550# $113-$140.25, 550-600# $112-$136, 600-650# $114-$129.50, 650-700# $109-$132, 700-750# $113.25-$131.50, 750-800# $106-$128, 800-900# $121-$127, and 900-1000# $114.50-$117.50/cwt.
For the second week in a row, cattle futures are strongly higher. The October live cattle futures contract settled at $104.20/cwt today, up $3.05 for the week. December fed cattle settled at $104.35/cwt, up $2.48 from the previous Friday. February fed cattle futures settled at $104.92/cwt, up $2.12 from the previous Friday. April live cattle closed at $104.25/cwt.
November feeder cattle futures ended the week at $121.55/cwt, up $1.85 from a week earlier. January feeder cattle gained 50 cents this week to settle at $116.00/cwt. The March contract closed the week at $113.15/cwt.