There is a smidge of good news in the beef sector this week. Weekly cattle slaughter has turned higher as more packing plants have reopened, though it will be weeks before harvest is running full-throttle again.
The week’s cattle slaughter came in at an estimated 452,000 head, versus 425,000 last week, a 6% increase. The same week a year ago was 32% higher at 667,000 head. In total, slaughter through May 9, 2020, is running about 5.8% lower than 2019.
Cash fed cattle prices continue to trade in a wide range – from $95 in the North live and $150 dressed, with some up to $115 and $180 – steady to $20 higher. (If that’s strange to read, it’s even stranger to report.) Trade in the South was at $95 to $115 late week – steady to $10 higher.
June CME live cattle futures closed Friday up $0.675 at $94.65 and near the session low after hitting a six-week high earlier. For the week, prices gained a solid $7.40. August feeder cattle futures prices also hit a six-week high early Friday, but then backed off and closed down $1.20 at $136.95. For the week, the market rose $9.30.
Boxed beef cutout prices continue to perform like the early days of Bitcoin trading. Choice boxed beef closed Friday at $460.88 per cwt., that’s $83.43 higher than last Friday (+18%). Select boxed beef closed at $448.99 per cwt., or $91.86 higher than last Friday. The Choice-Select spread was $11.89.
Steers and heifers sold at auction steady to $5 higher, according to Agricultural Marketing Service reporters.
“Sharply higher CME Cattle Complex values mid- to late-week brought the optimism back in the feeder cattle realm,” AMS reporters said. “Through Thursday’s CME Close, Feeder Cattle contracts were double digits higher on the week” though Friday saw some profit taking.
“More feeder cattle buying interest in the sales arena this week with livestock slaughter being a little higher than last week.” Auction receipts were reported at 182,100 head, 37,100 less than last week and 35,300 higher than last year.