Commercial beef production in October totaled 2.13 billion pounds, 1.84% below October 2014’s 2.17 billion, on slaughter of 2.51 million head, 4.92% fewer than in the previous October when it was 2.64 million, the USDA said Thursday in its monthly Livestock Slaughter report.
October beef production did not fall as much as the slaughter rate because the average live weight was up 35 pounds, or 2.58%, at 1,390 pounds from 1,355 a year earlier, the USDA said.
Commercial beef production in October was up from September’s 2.09 billion pounds and reached its highest point of the year.
However, beef production also dipped back below last year after a brief foray above year-earlier production in September. This is likely to be the peak production month of 2015 as slaughter drops seasonally in November as consumer meat preferences make room for turkeys and hams.
Last year, there was a December rebound in total cattle slaughter and beef production. The average of the previous five years says this typically isn’t so. Slaughter and beef production tend to level from November but remain on a downward path.
SLAUGHTER SHOWS CONTINUED HERD GROWTH
A closer look at the slaughter numbers shows continued growth in the US cattle herd. It could also be showing the first hints of a changing mindset among cow/calf producers to trim their rate of herd growth.
Federally inspected steer slaughter in October was 1.34 million head, compared with 1.39 million in September and 1.31 million in October 2014. The range of slaughter rates is nearly as close as it was in September.
However, federally inspected heifer slaughter in October, at 638,800 head, was up 74,200, or 13.1%, from September’s 564,600. A year ago, the October heifer slaughter was 766,100 head, 64,500, or only 9.19% above the September rate of 701,600.
Heifer slaughter remains well below last year and the five-year average, but the percentage increase in the September-to-October numbers may be showing the effects of reduced feeder cattle prices as feedlot losses mount and feeder cattle supplies climb slowly.
Slaughter numbers this year also give a tangential indication of increasing feeder cattle numbers. Commercial calf slaughter, at 40,300 head, reached its high point of the year in October. The relative stability of calf slaughter through the year compared with last year’s decline shows feedlots aren’t placing these dairy calves on feed as aggressively as they were.
CASH FED CATTLE MARKETS REMAIN QUIET
The USDA reports a handful of cattle sales this week on a dressed basis at $194 to $195 per cwt, which is down $2 to $7 from last week, but with this week’s highly volatile cattle futures, there is little trading interest.
Cattle trade last week was $5 per cwt lower at mostly $129 per cwt on a live basis and $2 to $4 lower on a dressed basis in a range from $197 to $202.
Wholesale beef prices Thursday were lower, with the USDA choice cutout at $204.83 per cwt, down $1.85 on the day, and its select cutout at $193.34, off $3.36.
The choice/select spread Thursday widened to $11.49 from $9.98 on Wednesday, and there were 130 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $175.77 per cwt, off $0.95. This compares with the Nov futures settlement Thursday of $175.22, up $0.35, and the Jan settlement of $162.45, down $1.50.