Cattle Outlook

Ron Plain and Scott Brown
University of Missouri
December 19, 2014

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It has been a chaotic couple of weeks in the cattle markets. After several days of limit lower prices on the futures market, this week has ended with sharply higher prices, though still down for the week.

The December live cattle futures contract settled at $160.75, down $1.30 for the week. February cattle settled at $160.10/cwt, down $2.07 from the previous Friday. The April contract closed at $159.67/cwt with a loss of $1.73 for the week.

Lower fed cattle prices and higher corn prices kept pressure on feeder cattle futures this week. The January feeder cattle contract ended the week at $220.15/cwt, down $5.45 for the week. March feeders closed at $217.97/cwt, down $3.28 compared to last Friday. April feeders ended the week $3.03 lower at $218.07/cwt.

The average retail price of choice beef during November was a record $6.303 per pound. That was 6.2 cents higher than in October and 89.4 cents higher than in November 2013. All fresh beef was record high for the sixth consecutive month averaging $5.975 per pound in November. Ground beef set a new record at $4.201 per pound during November.

The average live price for slaughter steers was a record $171/cwt in November. That was $6.40 higher than in October and $39.60 higher than in November 2013.

Boxed beef prices declined this week. This morning the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $238.83/cwt, down $6.80 from the previous Friday, but up $42.75 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout is $230.13/cwt, down $4.80 from last week, but up $42.96 from a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were sharply lower this week on moderate sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $157.51/cwt, down $5.60 from last week's average, but up $27.48 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers was $249.92/cwt, down $6.63 for the week, but up $42.49 over last year.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 552,000 head, down 3.0% from the week before week and down 10.5% from the same week last year.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on December 6 was 901 pounds, unchanged from the week before, but up 24 pounds compared to the same week last year. This was the twentieth consecutive week with steer weights at least 20 pounds heavier than a year ago.

Feeder cattle prices at this week's Oklahoma City auction were $10 to $15 lower compared to the week before. This week's prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight were: 400-450# $326-$369, 450-500# $310-$322.50, 500-550# $270-$310, 550-600# $265-$282.50, 600-650# $245-$260, 650-700# $230-$243, 700-750# $224.50-$235, 750-800# $220-$227.50, 800-900# $206.50-$225, and 900-1000# $198-$204/cwt.

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