Through Friday, the five-area direct price for steers was $118.90/cwt. on a live basis and $190.27 in the beef. Week to week, that was $2.15 lower and $2.91 lower, respectively.
Futures and equity markets were closed Monday, in observance of Presidents Day, so it will be another day before finding out if the late-week momentum in Cattle futures carries ahead.
Wholesale beef values were lower on Choice and firm on Select with light to moderate demand and offerings, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service.
Choice boxed beef cutout value was 83¢ lower Monday afternoon at $207.26/cwt. Select was 47¢ higher at $206.18.
“Heavier carcass weights in 2020 are expected to keep total beef production at or near record levels even as cattle slaughter decreases slightly,” says Derrell Peel, Extension livestock marketing specialist at Oklahoma State University, in his latest weekly market comments. “Moreover, steer and heifer carcass weights in 2020 may indicate whether the industry is resuming the long-term trend of ever-larger carcasses.”
Steer carcass weights averaged 879.0 lbs. last year, according to Peel. That was 1.5 lbs. less than the previous year. Heifer carcass weights last year averaged 813.1 lbs., down 3.4 lbs. from the prior year.
“Monthly steer carcass weights were lower year over year for the first nine months of 2019 before moving sharply higher at the end of the year. In fact, monthly steer carcass weights were lower year over year for 31 of 41 months from May 2016 through September 2019,” Peel says. “Heifer carcass weights were lower 26 of 38 months from August 2016 through September 2019. However, steer and heifer carcass weights jumped sharply higher in November and December compared to the previous year and appear to have resumed the long-term trend of higher carcass weights.”
For longer term perspective, Peel explains annual steer carcass weights peaked in 2015 at 892.0 lbs. but averaged lower since then. Heifer carcass weights peaked in 2016 at 821.5 lbs. and have averaged lower through 2019.
“The moderation of carcass weights since 2016 has raised the question of whether the long trend of higher carcass weight was over,” Peel says. “Since 1960, steer carcass weights have averaged 3.8 lbs. larger each year, increasing from 656.3 lbs. in 1960 to 879 lbs. in 2019. Heifer carcass weights have increased an annual average of 4.5 lbs. per year from 545.6 lbs. in 1960 to 813.1 lbs. in 2019.”
As an aside, although economic incentive suggests a continuation of increasing carcass weights, you can find some cattle feeders who believe cattle physiology will cap future carcass growth. Said differently, there are some who think cattle weights are growing beyond the ability of cattle skeletal structure and internal organs to support them.
Moreover, Peel points out, “Multiple research studies have shown that bigger carcasses and the larger beef cuts (bigger steaks) that result have some negative demand implications. If the larger carcass trend resumes, these issues will continue to grow resulting in increased product fabrication needs and alternative product marketing.”