Negotiated cash fed cattle trade was at a standstill in the Southern Plains and Colorado through Friday afternoon, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service. Elsewhere, trade was mostly inactive on light demand with too few transactions to trend.
For the week, live prices were steady to $2 lower in the Southern Plains at $118-$119/cwt., $1-$2 lower in Nebraska at $119-$120, $2 lower in Colorado at $119 and $2-$3 lower in the western Corn Belt at $119. Dressed trade was $1-$2 lower in Nebraska and the western Corn Belt at $190-$191.
Continued increase in wholesale beef values helped Live Cattle futures mostly advance Friday, despite the week’s anemic cash trade and another surge higher in Corn futures, which upended Feeder Cattle once again.
Live Cattle futures closed an average of 87¢ higher, except for $3.47 lower in expiring Apr.
Feeder Cattle futures closed an average of $1.43 lower, from 10¢ lower at the back to $3.12 lower toward the front.
Choice boxed beef cutout value was $2.74 higher Friday afternoon at $296.50/cwt. Select was $3.26 higher at $283.05
Total estimated cattle slaughter for the week ending May 1 was 649,000 head, which was 16,000 head fewer than the previous week, according to USDA.
Corn futures closed 13¢ to 38¢ higher through Jly ‘22, and then mostly 5¢ to 9¢ higher.
Soybean futures closed 20¢ to 28¢ higher through Jan ‘22, and then mostly 12¢ to 18¢ higher.
Major U.S. financial indices closed lower Friday, apparently pressured by profit taking more than anything.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 185 points lower. The S&P 500 closed 30 points lower. The NASDAQ down 119 points.
Frustration among cattle producers continues to mount as wholesale beef prices escalate, while fed cattle prices weaken and the run-up in feed costs pressures calf and feeder cattle prices.
“Slaughter levels have increased year over year, beef demand is strong, and packers have more cattle available to them than they want to process. This means the packer maintains leverage over cattle feeders despite the market moving into a period of stronger beef demand or at least strong anticipated demand,” says Andrew P. Griffith, agricultural economist at the University of Tennessee, in his weekly market comments.
Although carcass weights are typically lightest at this time of year, Griffith points out they are heavier than last year and the five-year average.
“Slaughter levels are manageable, but they are expected to increase, given the quantity of cattle on feed. There will be lower prices to come in the finished cattle market,” Griffith says.
Economics explains much of what’s happening, if not the magnitude. More cattle in need of harvesting, compared to existing slaughter capacity, means packers have the leverage, period. Keep in mind, according to various reports, much of the capacity lost to the pandemic last year returned with extraordinary speed. However, measures imposed to protect workers means post-pandemic capacity is less than it was before. If drought forces lots more cows to town in bunches, the challenge will grow.
New processing facilities—more packing capacity—are currently in various stages of construction in different parts of the U.S. I don’t have the numbers to tell you how much capacity or how much it will address the current imbalance.
One Cattle Current podcast listener called me at the end of last week. I know him. His family is one of those in the business for generations. He’s a solid thinker, innovative and progressive as they come, and not given to buying into the fiction some toss around about packer conspiracies and all of that. He wonders why producers don’t create a check-off to fund construction of more producer-owned packing capacity.
Never minding the monumental raw cost and challenges of building and running a packing plant, the notion of producers taking more control of their economic fortunes at the last stage of production is hard to argue.
For my money, those producers who put up the money and took the risk to start U.S. Premium Beef (USPB) proved the possibility. If you’re unfamiliar, the vision began in 1995. By 1997, about 450 cow-calf producers and cattle feeders made a financial commitment, developed a business plan and purchased a minority interest in what was then Farmland National Beef. At one point, USPB was the majority owner of what became National Beef; they still own an interest today. In essence, these producers purchased shares, which not only gave them ownership in the company, annual dividends and whatnot, but it secured them delivery slots for cattle aimed at the value-added grid USPB created.
In some ways, from what little I know of it, that sounds like what producers and other business interests are doing with the recently announced Sustainable Beef LLC packing plant to be constructed at North Platte, NE.
Anyway, building more producer-owned packing capacity is one listener’s idea. What’s yours? If you have ideas you want to share with Cattle Current listeners, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org