Lower grain prices, short cattle supplies and high cattle values have pushed slaughter weights to record-high levels in recent months, and the trend is continuing.
With feeder cattle in short supply, feedyards have had ample incentive to keep cattle on feed a little longer and add more weight, especially as fed-cattle prices have remained in the range of $170 per hundredweight.
Last week, the USDA reported average live weights of 1,364 pounds, up two pounds from the previous week’s average of 1,362 and 18 pounds heavier than one year ago, when the average stood at 1,346 pounds.
Dressed weights last week averaged an estimated 828 pounds, up one pound from an estimated 827 pounds the previous week and 21 pounds heavier than the year-earlier average of 807 pounds, according to the USDA’s National Daily Cattle and Beef Summary.
Heavier weights have helped partially offset the continuing decline in slaughter numbers, with last-week’s beef production estimated at 468 million pounds, up from the previous week’s estimated 462 million, but down from 500 million pounds during the same week last year.
Boxed-beef prices climbed higher on Tuesday, Nov. 25, with the Choice cutout averaging $256.87 per hundredweight, up $1.17 from Monday, while the Select cutout, at $243.67 per hundredweight, was up $1.42 from Monday.