Negotiated cash fed cattle prices ended up $7 lower on a live basis last week at $105/cwt. in the Southern Plains, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service. Dressed trade in Nebraska and the western Corn Belt was $7-$12 lower at $168. A light test was noted in all regions. At least part of the pressure likely stems from slowing packing plant production, due to COVID-19 (see below).
Futures and equities markets were closed in observance of Good Friday.
Week to week on Thursday, Live Cattle futures closed an average of $6.33 higher, from $1.17 higher in spot Apr to $8.82 higher.
Week to week on Thursday, Feeder Cattle futures closed an average of $9.98 higher, from $8.85 to $11.75 higher.
Wholesale beef values were higher on moderate to fairly good demand and light offerings on Friday, according to AMS.
Choice boxed beef cutout value was $1.26 higher Friday afternoon at $223.93/cwt. Select was 76¢ higher at $208.33. Week to week, Choice was $6.51 lower and Select was $7.51 lower.
Major U.S. financial indices were closed in observance of Good Friday.
Week to week on Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 2,305 points higher, the broader S&P 500 was 262 points higher and the NASDAQ was up 666 points.
Supply chain disruptions, due to COVID-19, are mounting in the packing sector.
Smithfield Foods, Inc. announced Sunday that its Sioux Falls, SD facility will remain closed until further notice. The plant is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the U.S., representing 4-5% of U.S. pork production. It employs 3,700 people. More than 550 independent family farmers supply the plant.
“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply. It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers. These farmers have nowhere to send their animals,” said Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and chief executive officer, for Smithfield.
Likewise, Noel White, Tyson Foods, Inc. CEO explained last week, “Our meat and poultry plants are experiencing varying levels of production impact, due to the planned implementation of additional worker safety precautions and worker absenteeism.
“For example, out of an abundance of caution, we have suspended operations at our Columbus Junction, Iowa, pork plant due to more than two dozen cases of COVID-19 involving team members at the facility. In an effort to minimize the impact on our overall production, we’re diverting the livestock supply originally scheduled for delivery to Columbus Junction to some of our other pork plants in the region.”
According to various news sources, JBS is closing its beef packing plant in Greeley, CO through Tuesday of this week, for deep cleaning facilities and screening new workers. Reportedly, 36 JBS workers tested positive for COVID-19 infections through the end of last week.
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases are now ubiquitous across our country. The virus is afflicting communities everywhere. The agriculture and food sectors have not been immune,” Sullivan explained. “Numerous plants across the country have COVID-19 positive employees. We have continued to run our facilities for one reason: to sustain our nation’s food supply during this pandemic. We believe it is our obligation to help feed the country, now more than ever. We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19.”