Cattle Carcass Weights Moderating
Market analysts see signs that feedyards have significantly reduced the COVID-19-induced backlog of cattle and are regaining currentness, also a key factor in the recent market rally.
A key signal are the carcass weights published each Thursday by USDA. For the week ending October 31 the data show an average steer carcass weight of 926 pound, down five pounds from the previous week, yet still 23 pounds heavier (+2.5%) than last year. Average heifer carcass weights was 848 pounds, one pound heavier than the previous week and 13 pounds (+1.6%) heavier than last year.
Market analysts also believe carcass weights have been trending lower the first two weeks of November. Len Steiner, Steiner Consulting Group, says over the last three years “the peak in fed cattle weights has happened in mid-November and it appears we may be at that point again this year. The marketing pace in October was good even though one less marketing day will mean marketings for the month were slightly lower than a year ago.
For now, Steiner says, fed cattle data suggest incremental improvements in weights, with weather and COVID two main wild cards for Dec./Jan.
Cattle were backlogged both in feedyards and outside of feedyards during the COVID-19 disruptions, and analysts believe the end of the backlog should be marketed by the first half of 2021. If that happens, fed cattle supplies will begin to reflect the reality of two years of declining calf crops.