Negotiated cash fed cattle prices finished last week $2 higher in Nebraska on a live basis at $132/cwt. and $2-$4 higher at $132 in the Southern Plains and the western Corn Belt. Fed cattle in Colorado also sold for $132, but there’s been no trend reported in that region for some time. Dressed prices were $3-$5 higher at $207.
Through Thursday, the five-area direct average steer price was $131.35/cwt. on a live basis, which was $3.23 more than the previous week. The five-area average steer price in the beef was $4.55 higher at $206.60.
“This week’s five-area weighted average price is the highest price since June 2017 and the first week the price has exceeded $130 since that same time period,” explained Andrew P. Griffith, agricultural economist at the University of Tennessee, in his weekly market comments. “The spring price peak in 2017 was just over $144/cwt., but the spring price spike was short lived. The difference in today’s market is that the market is in a position to sustain prices in excess of $130 for several months. Fed cattle prices are not likely to spike, but methodically increase.”
Total estimated cattle slaughter last week was 655,000 head, which was 5,000 head more than the previous week. Year-to-date total estimated cattle slaughter of 28.9 million head was 844,000 head more (+3.0%) than the same period a year earlier. Total estimated year-to-date beef production through last week of 23.9 billion lbs. was 601.8 million lbs. more (+2.6%) than a year earlier.
Rallying Corn futures pressured Cattle futures Friday, especially Feeder Cattle.
Live Cattle futures closed an average of 25¢ lower, except for 25¢ higher in spot Dec. They closed an average of 33¢ lower week to week on Friday, except for an average of 27¢ higher in two contracts.
Corn futures faded early-week pressure from the monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates. On Friday, they closed 5¢ to 7¢ higher through Jly ’22 and then mostly 2¢ higher. Week to week on Friday, they were an average of 18¢ higher through the front six contracts.
Soybean futures rallied higher, helped along by decreased projected yield in the WASDE. They closed 21¢ to 23¢ higher through Aug ’22 and then mostly 10¢ to 17¢ higher. Week to week on Friday, they were an average of 38.4¢ higher through the front six contracts.
Cash calf and feeder cattle prices were mixed last week, but continued to show upside promise.
“The strong run of lightweight calves and slaughter cows the past several weeks has pressured prices for these classes of cattle, but prices have not faltered as much as the seasonal tendency would predict,” according to Griffith. “Most producers with spring calving herds will have marketed the 2021 calf crop and culled cows from the herd by early December. This means the price of these two classes of cattle will soon turn around and begin to seasonally increase as supply begins to wane.”
In the meantime, rallying grain futures pressured Feeder Cattle futures last week. They closed an average of $2.02 lower week to week on Friday ($1.50 lower toward the back to $2.62 lower in spot Nov). That was with an average decline of $1.13 on Friday.
“The longer term outlook is for prices of cattle to continue increasing as there is an expectation of a bull market the next two to three years,” Griffith says. “However, the higher cattle price expectation in 2022 may not be able to overcome higher input costs for feed, fuel and fertilizer. Producers are encouraged to begin evaluating alternative production plans to reduce the dependency on these three inputs as prices are expected to remain elevated through the spring and potentially longer.”
Wholesale beef values show signs of reaching a seasonal peak sooner than normal, but robust international demand for U.S. beef continues to strengthen the price floor.
Choice boxed beef cutout value was 38¢ lower Thursday afternoon at $285.14/cwt. Select was 67¢ higher at $267.29. Week to week, Choice was $5.24 lower. Select was $2.01 higher.
“Despite the wholesale price of beef remaining elevated, international markets continue to be a vacuum for the high-quality beef and beef products being produced in the United States. The fact beef continues to move at a strong pace to international customers is a good indicator that demand remains strong for beef,” Griffith says. “There are sure to be some market analysts who will raise concerns about export demand slowing, which is always a possibility with customers like China. However, Japan and South Korea continue to lead the way as the top destinations with China being a solid third place followed by Mexico and Canada.”
Year-to-date U.S. beef exports remained on a record pace through September.
Major U.S. financial indices closed higher Friday, bouncing back from pressure earlier in the week from the stoutest inflation in three decades.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 179 points higher. The S&P 500 closed 33 points higher. The NASDAQ was up 156 points.
On Friday, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) called on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to immediately suspend all imports of fresh beef from Brazil to the United States.
In the letter to USDA, NCBA asked for a suspension until the agency conducts a thorough risk assessment and review of the processes that Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Food Supply (MAPA) uses to detect disease and other threats to consumers. NCBA also urged USDA to review Brazil’s veterinary diagnostic laboratory system.
The U.S. and Brazil share “Negligible Risk” status for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). However, according to NCBA, reports published by OIE indicate Brazil took more than eight weeks to report two confirmed cases of atypical BSE in September. The OIE requires countries to report within 24 hours for any animal disease event that could be of international concern for public health emergencies.
“It’s time to keep Brazilian fresh beef out of this country until USDA can confirm that Brazil meets the same consumer and food safety standards that we apply to all our trade partners,” says Ethan Lane, NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs.
“NCBA has long expressed concerns about Brazil’s history of failing to report atypical BSE cases in a timely manner, a pattern that stretches back as far as 2012. Their poor track record and lack of transparency raises serious doubts about Brazil’s ability to produce cattle and beef at an equivalent level of safety as American producers. If they cannot meet that bar, their product has no place here,” Lane says.