The following report was prepared and written by Jeff Swenson, DATCP Livestock and Meat Specialist. It 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.
Cattle and beef markets continued higher last week but stalled somewhat by the middle of this week. The Choice beef cutout broke through $300 last week to end Friday at $302.62. The next target level to watch is $308. The cutout value reached $307.06 Tuesday before reversing direction on Wednesday. Last week’s harvest estimate of 613,000 head was 10,000 lower than the previous week and 25,000 below the same week last year. Harvest has picked up this week, outpacing last week through Wednesday, but will likely fall short of last year. The average retail price of beef in March was $7.64/pound, down 0.6% from February. While some customers have shied away from higher priced cuts, beef remains the red meat of choice. There is certainly a nervousness in the marketplace as to whether demand will hold at higher prices heading into the early summer. Net export sales of beef was up 47% from the four-week average and totaled 19,100 metric tons for the period of April 7-13, 2023. Exports continue to lag behind last year.
Cash hogs were lower again last week with the pork carcass cutout value largely unchanged at $78.25. Weakness in both cash and wholesale pork prices continued into this week. The average pork price in March was $4.76/pound, 1.6% lower than February. Harvest continues to outpace year-ago levels. Last week’s estimate of 2.438 million head was 68,000 higher than the previous week and 92,000 more than the same week last year. Pork export sales for the period of April 7-13 were 36,100 metric tons, and that was 33% higher than the previous week, although 3% below the four-week average. Lead buyers were Mexico, Japan, and Australia.
Market lambs were lower last week. The weekly harvest estimate was 34,000 sheep and lambs, which was equal to the week prior and 5,000 head below the same week last year. The gross lamb cutout value was up slightly last week, ending Friday at $520.16, an increase of 37 cents.
High-yielding, high-grading cattle were steady to higher this week bringing $140 to $175/cwt. Groups of high Choice and Prime steers and heifers sold into the $180s/cwt. The Holstein steer market was higher, ranging from $114 to $150/cwt with the top end bringing $150 to $155. Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $74 to $114/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were bringing $112 to $168/cwt. Cows were mixed. A bulk of the cows brought $68 to $95/cwt with some selling to $100/cwt and above. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $68/cwt and down. Dairy breed bull calves were mostly steady to higher, bringing $100 to $340/cwt with some heavier, well cared for calves selling to $380. Beef and Beef Cross calves were selling to $500/cwt with a few higher. Market lambs were lightly tested bringing $145 to $180/cwt. Some packages of lighter lambs sold to $300/cwt.
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