Cash traded fed cattle was lower this week. The five-area fed steer price ended the week averaging $116.66 for live sales, and $183.36 for dressed; respectively, down $1.75 and $3.91. Total volume sold was up 9,000 head from a week ago and up 38,000 head from last year.
Feeder steer cattle and calves were trading lower across much of the U.S. this week. Oklahoma City feeder cattle were $8 to $14 lower than a week ago for most weight classes. In Mississippi auctions, lighter weight feeders weighing 450-500 pounds were down $2.50 compared to a week ago, averaging $182.50, while heavy steers were averaging $125.00, unchanged from last week.
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Live cattle futures and feeder futures were mixed across contract months this week. December live cattle were down $2.22 on the week and $41.10 lower than a year ago at $120.15, while April live cattle were up $0.83 from last week and down $32.48 from a year ago. Feeder cattle were also mixed with January futures down $0.65 from last Friday and down $71.45 from a year ago at $148.75 while March futures are up $0.75 on the week. Nearby corn futures are down $0.01 from a week ago while May futures are also down $0.01.
Wholesale boxed beef prices are lower compared to a week ago. Choice boxes averaged $196.56, down $6.57 from a week ago and $45.71 lower than a year ago. Select boxes ended the week with an average of $186.07 down $3.13 from last week. The choice-select spread narrowed from $13.93 a week ago to $10.49 this week.
December Cattle on Feed:
The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA, NASS) released their monthly Cattle on Feed report Friday afternoon (December 18, 2015). Placements totaled 1.601 million head, a decrease of 10.76% from November 2014 and significantly lower than expectations. November’s placements mark the lowest placement number since the report began in 1996. Cattle marketed in November totaled 1.532 million head, up 3.86% versus last year. Pre-report expectations called for marketings to be 3.0% lower than the same period last year, so they were higher than expected, but still within the range of analysts’ expectations. The total number of cattle in feedlots with 1,000 head or larger capacity totaled 10.794 million head, down 0.2% versus December 1, 2014. Market analysts expected a 0.9% year-over-year increase in cattle inventories, so the reported value was much lower than expected.
It looks like this report is turning out to be an early Christmas present for cattle producers. With such low placement numbers coming in, the cattle markets have shot up across the board. Nearly all cattle futures closed the day limit-up and I would expect the bullish tone to carry into early next week as well.
Note: all cattle and beef prices are quoted in dollars per hundredweight and corn prices are quoted in dollars per bushel, unless stated otherwise.