Negotiated cash fed cattle sales were mixed on a live basis Thursday, compared to last week: steady in Nebraska at $119-$120/cwt., steady to $1 higher in the western Corn Belt at $115; steady to $5 lower in the Southern Plains at $115-$120. Dressed prices were steady to $12 lower at $178-$190.
Cattle futures closed mixed but mainly higher Thursday, bouncing back from early pressure.
Live Cattle futures closed an average of 32¢ higher, except for 5¢ and 67¢ lower in near and away Oct, respectively.
Feeder Cattle futures closed mixed, an average of 99¢ higher across the front half of the board (45¢ higher to $1.47 higher in spot Aug) to an average 12¢ lower across the back half.
Choice boxed beef cutout value was $8.21 lower Thursday afternoon at $369.56/cwt. Select was $6.11 lower at $344.09.
Corn futures closed 5¢ to 7¢ higher through May ’21 and then mostly 4¢ higher.
Soybean futures closed mostly fractionally lower.
Major U.S. financial indices closed lower Thursday, apparently mostly hamstrung by rising political tensions between the U.S. and China.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 147 points lower. The S&P 500 closed 6 points lower. The NASDAQ closed 43 points lower.
Recent slaughter data suggest the worst of COVID-19 packing disruptions may be over.
“For beef and pork, the plants are mainly back online, but are running at reduced capacity due to social distancing of workers, etc. Beef and pork are currently running at about 10% to 15% below last year,” says Jayson Lusk, agricultural economist at Purdue University, in his latest comments. “The worst of the disruptions occurred in late April and early May when we were running about 40% below last year, but significant improvements have been made since then.”
For perspective, the week ending May 2 might be the ebb in packing capacity, when USDA estimated cattle slaughter at 425,000 head, which was 36.8% less (-248,000 head) year over year. Actual cattle slaughter under federal inspection that week ended up 438,614 head, which was 34.8% less (-233,836 head).
By the week ending May 23, estimated slaughter of 555,000 head was 14.2% less (-92,000 head) than a year earlier. Actual slaughter data for the week wasn’t yet available.
There’s still an immense and growing backlog of market-ready fed cattle, but gains in packing capacity suggest it may prove to be less than originally anticipated.
In the meantime, longer-fed cattle are racking up the per-head tonnage.
The average dressed steer weight for the week ending May 16 was 901 lbs., which was 5 lbs. heavier than the previous week and 52 lbs. heavier than the same week a year earlier, according to USDA’s Actual Slaughter Under Federal Inspection report. The average dressed heifer weight of 831 lbs. was 2 lbs. heavier than the previous week and 43 lbs. heavier than last year.