Cattle futures took another strong step higher on Thursday, lifting front months to the highest levels since early-to-mid March. Ongoing indications that the bottom in packing capacity and beef production may have been established continued to provide support, as did the week’s mostly stronger cash prices.
Except for 17¢ lower in the back contract, Live Cattle futures closed an average of $3.46 higher ($2.07 higher toward the back to $4.50 higher in the front three contracts). That’s an average of $6.39 higher in the last two sessions.
Feeder Cattle futures closed an average of $4.49 higher ($3.45 higher at the back to $6.17 higher in spot May). That’s an average increase of $8.82 in the last two sessions.
Wholesale beef values continued higher Thursday, but at a more moderate pace. Choice boxed beef cutout value was $9.36 higher Thursday afternoon at a $458.54/cwt. Select was $16.61 higher at $448.57.
The average dressed steer weight for the week ending Apr. 25 was 891 lbs., which was 2 lbs. heavier than the previous week and 37 lbs. heavier than the previous year, according to USDA’s weekly Actual Slaughter Under Federal Inspection report. The average dressed heifer weight of 818 lbs. was 5 lbs. lighter week to week but 24 lbs. heavier year over year. Fed cattle slaughter of 350,563 head was 161,914 head fewer (-31.59%). Beef production of 381.1 million lbs. was 131.7 million lbs. less (-25.68%).
Corn futures closed 2¢ to 4¢ higher through Mar ’21 and then unchanged to 1¢ higher.
Soybean futures closed 7¢ to 11¢ higher through Jan ’21 and then fractionally higher to 1¢ higher.
Major U.S. financial indices closed higher Thursday, led by tech stocks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 211 points higher. The S&P 500 closed 32 points higher. The NASDAQ closed 125 points higher.
As scarcer beef supplies spawn more retail and food service outlets to limit customer purchases, some consumers wonder why the U.S. continues to export beef. Similarly, as cattle prices sag and run opposite of wholesale beef values, some producers question why the U.S. continues to import beef.
“Closing off or limiting beef exports does not necessarily mean greater amounts of beef in U.S. retail grocery stores, nor does limiting imports mean greater cattle prices,” says Brenda Boetel, livestock economist at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. “The reason is because beef exported is not the same as beef imported. Even with beef production down, the importance of keeping export markets (and import markets) open is vital to the long- term health of the cattle industry.”
More specifically, in the latest issue of In the Cattle Markets, Boetel explains the mix of U.S. beef exports add value to domestic cattle prices as international customers place a higher value on some beef products than U.S. consumers. As mentioned in Wednesday’s Cattle Current, beef export value per head of fed slaughter was $308.21 in March, according to the most recent data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation. For the first quarter, per-head export value was $317.06.
Likewise, importing beef–mostly lean trim–helps bolster U.S. ground beef demand and keep it more price competitive than using higher value parts of the domestic carcasses.
“Ground beef in the U.S. is typically a combination of two different products: 50% lean trimmings from grain fed cattle and 90% lean trimmings from grass fed cattle or cull cows. These two products are blended together to provide lean ground beef options for restaurants and retail grocery stores. Without these lean ground beef options, many consumers would likely turn to other leaner protein products,” Boetel says.