Fed Cattle Steady As Futures Hit 11-Month High

Nebraska Feedlot @TLauritsen
Nebraska Feedlot @TLauritsen
(Ty Lauritsen)

This week saw a rally in all cattle/beef trades except fed cattle. The fact futures markets rallied to 11-month highs and wholesale beef prices traded sharply higher this week underscores just how little leverage cattle feeders have in the current market. Fundamentals continue to struggle with large front-end supplies of cattle.

Cash fed cattle traded mostly at $109 to $110 live, and $172 to $173 dressed, steady with prices the previous week. Moderate trade in the South occurred at mostly $110 with a few up to $111. Cash cattle have not traded at $112 since the first week of June 2020, and cash cattle prices in January have not traded below $120 since 2011.

Futures markets suggest better days ahead for cash cattle. April live cattle futures rose an impressive $2.575 Friday to close at $122.525 and hit an 11-month high. For the week, April live cattle gained an impressive $4.325. March feeder cattle futures soared by $5.00 to close at $144.15 Friday and hit a five-month high. For the week, March feeders rose $8.325.

Boxed beef cutout values also traded higher. Choice boxed beef closed Friday at $223.05 per cwt., or $9.43 per cwt. higher than last Friday. Select closed at $213.15 per cwt., $10.37 higher than the previous week.

Weekly estimated cattle slaughter was 657,000 head, compared to 643,689 head last year. Total year-to-date slaughter was 2.028 million head, 9.8% lower than last year.

Feeder cattle were called mixed, from $2 lower to $3 higher.

USDA's monthly cattle on feed report was released Friday. Cattle on Feed Jan. 1 in feedlots with 1,000-head capacity or more was 12.0 million, slightly higher than last year. Placements of cattle on feed during December totaled 1.84 million, 1% more than in 2019. Marketings of fed cattle in December totaled 1.85 million, 1% more than December 2019.

On Friday USDA reported U.S. beef export sales rebounded to 24,500 MT the week ending Jan. 14 and included 4,300 MT reported sold to China.

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