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Harvest numbers bounce back in big way


Prepared and written by Jeff Swenson, DATCP Livestock and Meat Specialist. The Market Update draws information from several sources, including trade publications, radio broadcasts, agricultural news services, individuals involved in the industry as well as USDA NASS and AMS reports.

Harvest numbers bounced back in a big way last week after two weeks of weather hampered numbers. The USDA estimates last week’s harvest at 666,000 cattle. The carcass cutout price was higher again this week. The average carcass weight for beef breed steers last week was 873.6 pounds, 10 pounds lower than the previous week but six pounds heavier than the same week in 2020. 

The price for cattle purchased directly from feedlots across the nation have been stuck in a rut during the past four weeks. Cattle prices in Midwest auction markets were higher during the colder weather experienced in February, mostly due to lower numbers of cattle moving to market. 

While there’s still good demand for fed cattle, prices are moderating to be more in line with the national picture. Fed cattle margins were $14.00 per head in the black for cattle marketed last week according to the Sterling Profit Tracker. Export numbers brought good news this week as orders for 22,600 metric tons of US beef were placed. South Korea was the lead buyer at 6,800 metric tons, with China next at 4,500 metric tons.

Cash hog prices up

Cash hogs keep chugging higher. The USDA reported the national weighted average on a carcass basis Thursday, March 4 at $82.75/cwt. The live basis weighted average nationally was $61.52. The Pork Cutout is also higher again this week.

Lean Hog futures contracts have been working higher, shrugging off sharp losses on Tuesday and regaining to near contract highs Wednesday. Pressure did return on Thursday, however and Lean Hog contract closed mixed.

Estimated hog harvest for last week stands at 2.642 million head. Carcass weights indicate the hog supply is current, dropping five pounds since early January. There is still disagreement on the size of the hog supply. The willingness of packers to pay more for market hogs should be an indication of both a smaller supply and strong demand.

Weekly export sales for US pork was reported as 59,600 metric tons, up 68 percent from the prior four-week average. China was the largest buyer at 28,000 metric tons followed in order by Mexico, Japan, Canada and South Korea.

January slaughter report

The USDA released January’s Monthly Slaughter report last week. Overall red meat production for the United States totaled 4.80 billion pounds in January, down 3 percent from the 4.96 billion pounds produced in January 2020. Beef production was 3 percent below the previous year. Cattle harvest totaled 2.74 million head, down 5 percent from January 2020. The average live weight was up 24 pounds from the previous year, at 1,399 pounds.

Pork production totaled 2.48 billion pounds, 3 percent below the previous year. Hog harvest totaled 11.2 million head, 5 percent below January 2020. The average live weight was up 5 pounds from the previous year, at 295 pounds.

Lamb and mutton production, at 10.4 million pounds, was 12 percent below January 2020. Sheep harvest totaled 161,800 head, 11 percent below last year. The average live weight was 129 pounds, down 1 pound from January a year ago.

Veal production totaled 4.6 million pounds, 28 percent below January a year ago. Calf harvest totaled 32,300 head, 35 percent below January 2020. The average live weight was up 23 pounds from last year, at 247 pounds.

State auction prices vary

Choice beef breed steers and heifers at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets sold in a wide range once again with buyers rewarding quality, grain finished cattle likely to grade Choice and above.

High-yielding, high-grading cattle with an overnight stand sold from $114.00 to $116.00/cwt. There were reports of some selling higher.  

A bulk of beef breed steers and heifers brought $90.00 to $112.00. Choice and Prime Holstein steers were bringing $90.00 to $96.00/cwt. There were several reports of high-yielding, calf-fed, Holstein steers with an overnight stand selling higher, but certainly fewer head than the past two weeks.

Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $70.00 to $90.00/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were mostly $92.00 to $105.00/cwt. Cows were lower at $38.00 to $55.00/cwt. Blemish free cows in fleshier condition were selling up to $65.00/cwt.  

Dairy breed bull calves were mixed at $40.00 to $100.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $150.00/cwt.  Beef and Beef Cross calves brought up to $250.00/cwt. Market lambs remain lightly tested. 110 to 140 pound lambs sold in a wide range, topping at $215.00/cwt for new crop lambs.