The USDA’s April Prices Received Index for agricultural production is 104% of its 2011 base, up 2.0% from the March index but 9.6% below the April 2014 index. The Livestock Production Index for April, at 116%, was 0.9% below March, and down 11% from a year earlier.
Compared with a year earlier, prices for cattle, calves and turkeys were up from a year earlier, the USDA said. Prices were lower for milk, hogs, broilers and market eggs.
At 127%, the Meat Animal Index was unchanged from March, but was 3.1% lower than a year earlier. The April hog price was down $1.30 from March and $39.80 lower than a year earlier.
The April beef cattle price of $162 per cwt was up $2.00 from March and $14.00 higher than a year earlier.
CATTLE FEEDERS STILL SLOGGING AWAY
But cattle feeders still are slogging away with hefty losses on each animal sold to packers. The cost of replacement feeder cattle is too great, even though feed costs have declined.
It’s easy to see on a graph of prices received for calves, steers & heifers, all beef cattle and cows that the price of replacement feeder cattle has risen at a rate that is disproportionate to other cattle, rendering feedlot operations unprofitable.
Prices for steers and heifers in April rose to $164.00 per cwt, compared with $162.00 in March and $150.00 a year ago and was well above the $117.00 2011 base price. Feeder cattle declined a bit to $288.00 per cwt from $290.00 a month earlier but were sharply higher than the year-earlier price of $222.00 and even above the 2011 base price of $142.00.
Despite the losses, however, feeders still continue to believe in better times ahead as the cow herd grows and produces more calves to lower the price of those replacements.
HOG PRICES PLUMMET
The prices received by hog producers have plummeted from their peak last year and were down to $49.00 per cwt in April, compared with $50.30 in March and $88.80 a year earlier. They even were well below the 2011 base price of $66.50.
Barrow and gilt prices are little different than the all-hog numbers with April prices averaging $49.40 per cwt, compared with $50.70 in March and $88.40 a year earlier. The 2011 base price was $66.80.
Analysts cited increased production and a lack of illness losses for the lower hog prices.
POULTRY PRICES SHOW UNEVEN TREND HIGHER
Things are not rosy for poultry producers, although a 10-year graph of prices shows a gradual increase.
At 129%, the April price index was down 3.0% from March and 7.2% below 2014. Broken down, the April market egg price was 87.2 cents a dozen, down 53.8 cents from March and 21.8 cents below April 2014.
The April broiler price, at 64.0 cents a pound was up 5.0 cents from March, but was 4.0 cents below a year earlier. At 70.2 cents a pound, the April turkey price was up 1.9 cents from April and 1.5 cents higher than 2014.
CASH CATTLE MARKETS QUIET
Cash cattle markets remained quiet Thursday, although the USDA reported a sale of 115 head of steers weighing 1,525 pounds selling for $157 per cwt. This would be $2 to $4 below last week’s trades but were considered too small of a sample for an accurate market test.
Bids were posted at $156 to $157 per cwt on a live basis with asking prices around $163 to $164. No bids were reported in Nebraska’s dressed market where asking prices ranged from $258 to $260.
Cattle last week traded steady to $1 per cwt lower at $159 to mostly $161 on a live basis and at mostly $256 dressed.
Beef prices Thursday were down sharply with the USDA choice cutout at $259.25 per cwt, down $1.86, and the select cutout at $246.74, off $3.14. Volume was very active with 250 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $222.45 per cwt, up $0.34.