Cattle Outlook

Ron Plain and Scott Brown
University of Missouri
February 20, 2015

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The February Cattle on Feed report said there were 10.711 million cattle in large feedlots at the start of February. That is up 0.3% from a year ago. USDA said January placements were down 11.3% and January marketings were down 9.1% (there was one fewer slaughter day than in January 2014). The pre-release trade estimates had placements down 13.7%, marketings down 8.8% and the February on feed number unchanged from a year ago.

The USDA Cold Storage report said stocks of beef in cold storage at the end of January were up 14.4% from a year ago. A month earlier they were up only 1.1%. Frozen stocks of pork, chicken, and turkey also increased relative to the month before. This is likely related to slowing exports because of the labor problem at west coast ports.

At the annual Ag Outlook Forum this week, USDA predicted acres planted to corn would be down 1.8% this year, soybean acres down 0.2%, and wheat acres down 2.3%. This shouldn't create a big problem for feed prices as long as the weather is good. Fewer acres and a hot, dry summer will mean much higher feeding costs for livestock and poultry producers.

Boxed beef prices increased following four consecutive weeks of decline. This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $240.12/cwt, up $2.03 from the previous Friday and up $25.34 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $236.86/cwt this morning, up $2.49 from last week and up $25.04 from a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were mixed this week on good sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $159.99/cwt, down 55 cents from last week's average, but up $17.99 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers was $256.36/cwt, up $1.21 for the week and up $26.36 compared to a year ago.

Cattle slaughter this week totaled 524,000 head, down 2.4% from the week before and also down 2.4% from the comparable week last year. Cattle slaughter has been below year-ago for the last 51 weeks. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on February 7 was 884 pounds, up 3 pounds from the week before and up 13 pounds compared to the same week last year. Steer weights have been above year-ago each week since June 14, 2014.

Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were steady to $4 higher this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $309-$322, 450-500# $287-$307, 500-550# $270-$281, 550-600# $266-$287, 600-650# $239-$257, 650-700# $219-$240, 700-750# $213-$221.50, 750-800# $193-$213.35, 800-900# $186.75-$208, 900-1000#, $181.50-$189/cwt.

The February live cattle futures contract settled at $156.70/cwt today, down $3.30 for the week. April fed cattle settled at $148.52/cwt, down $4.70 from the previous Friday. June fed cattle lost $4.15 this week to settle at $141.87/cwt. The March feeder cattle contract ended the week at $199.17/cwt, down $4.68 for the week. April feeders settled at $198.35/cwt.

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