Total red meat supplies in US freezers at the end of March were down 5% from February and were down 7% from last year, a situation that is somewhat worrisome to beef and pork buyers.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service made the statement in its monthly Cold Storage report Monday.
In the report, NASS said total pounds of beef in cold storage, at 464.469 million pounds, were down 37.974 million, or 7.56%, from February and down 17.292 million, or 3.59%, from last year.
Beef supplies continued this year’s decline at a time of year when they normally rise slightly. They continue to follow last year’s pattern, but March’s use took stocks below last year and slightly below the 2011-2015 average, according to NASS and the Livestock Marketing Information Center, which compiled the data.
Live cattle futures traders were left wondering if March’s decline was simply a variation on last year’s theme, or whether inventories now would follow the five-year average for the next few months.
Whatever beef inventories do in April, it is clear from the data that the April 30 supply number should be above the March 31 number since last year’s supply and average stocks are very close together, creating a strong seasonal tendency. However, supplies that are only a little below last year and the average at the end of April may be seen as nothing to worry about.
PORK STOCKS FOLLOW AVERAGE AT LOWER LEVEL
Frozen pork supplies, at 555.052 million pounds, were down 16.909 million, or 2.96%, from February and down 58.751 million, or 9.57%, from last year, NASS said. Cold storage stocks were following the 2011-2015 average almost exactly, but at a lower level, rising in February and declining in March.
If pork inventories continue to follow this line, they will rise in April only to begin a long descent through July. The tendency to rise this moth and then decline into summer appears to be a strong seasonal
However, a slow-growing hog herd may lend itself to pork storage numbers later in the summer that more closely approximate last year than the average.
POULTRY STOCKS RISING
Total pounds of poultry in cold storage was listed at 1.199 billion pounds, up 28.821 million, or 2.46%, from 1.171 billion in February. The March 31 total also was up 28.006 million, or 2.39%, from 1.171 billion a year ago. The March total was up 1.911 million, or 18.9%, from the 2011-2015 average of 1.008 billion.
CASH CATTLE QUIET
Cash cattle trade was isolated so far this week, with Texas at $126 per cwt on a live basis and Iowa at $125. Both were said to be forward sales.
There was no word on the quality of those cattle, but with the prices below last week when futures were working higher, it is possible they were lower-quality cattle.
Cattle traded on the livestock exchange last Wednesday at an average of $128.60 per cwt, up $2.60 from the previous week, but fewer than 1,000 sold.
Subsequently, cash cattle traded in a range from $129 to $133 per cwt on a live basis, mostly $130 to $133, up $4 to $5, and at $210 on a dressed basis, steady to up $2.
The USDA’s choice cutout Tuesday was up $0.34 per cwt at $219.01, while select was up $1.98 at $206.27. The choice/select spread narrowed to $12.74 from $14.38 with 94 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Monday was $139.31 per cwt, down $0.10. This compares with Tuesday’s Apr settlement of $138.72, up $0.47, and May’s at $137.67, up $0.22.