Cattle Outlook

Ron Plain and Scott Brown
University of Missouri
May 22, 2015

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USDA's May Cattle on Feed report said placements were down 4.6% in April and marketings were down 7.8%. That made the May 1 on feed number up 0.8% from a year ago. Marketings were close to trade expectations, but placements were lower.

For the fourth time, the World Trade Organization has ruled against the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law. The ruling is in regard to how COOL works for cattle and hog imports. The next step is for the WTO to determine the amount of sanctions that Canada and Mexico will be allowed to place on U.S. products going into those two countries. Sanctions are likely to go into effect late this year unless Congress rewrites COOL before then.

The average price of choice beef at retail was a record $6.402 per pound during April. The average price for all fresh beef was $6.054 per pound, down 0.7 cents from the record set the month before.

Fed cattle prices this week were lower on good volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $159.98/cwt, down 84 cents from last week's average, but up $15.29 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price this week for steers was $251.66/cwt, down $4.89 for the week, but up $19.40 compared to the same week last year.

This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $260.80/cwt, down $1.89 from the previous Friday, but up $29.20 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $248.00/cwt this morning, down $2.52 from last week, but up $27.06 from a year ago. The choice-select price spread remained wide at $12.80/cwt.

Cattle slaughter this week totaled 566,000 head, down 0.5% from the week before and down 6.4% from the same week last year.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on May 9 was 870 pounds, up 5 pounds from the week before and up 31 pounds compared to the same week last year. Steer weights have been above the year-ago level for 48 consecutive weeks.

USDA rated 57% of pastures in the 48 contiguous states as being in good or excellent condition on May 17. That is up from 56% good or excellent last week and 44% good or excellent a year ago.

Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were mostly steady to $3 higher this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $308-$309, 450-500# $287.50-$309, 500-550# $274-$285, 550-600# $254.50-$280, 600-650# $239.50-$262, 650-700# $229-$248, 700-750# $225-$234.50, 750-800# $213-223, 800-900# $196.50-$216, and 900-1000#, $187.50-$203/cwt.

Cattle futures were uneven this week. The June live cattle futures contract settled at $152.15/cwt today, down 37 cents for the week. August fed cattle settled at $150.72/cwt, down 8 cents from the previous week. October fed cattle gained $1.10 this week to settle at $152.77/cwt. The August feeder cattle contract ended the week at $218.85/cwt, up 45 cents for the week.

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