The USDA Wednesday confirmed what cattle producers around the country knew all along — October cattle prices were lower relative to September and last year.
In its monthly Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, the USDA’s Economic Research Service said, “Weekly average fed cattle prices declined during the month, averaging about $100 per cwt compared to $131 in 2015.
Medium-frame feeder steers in Oklahoma City averaged $123.50 per cwt in October, down 8% from September, and 35% from the same period last year. Cutter-cow prices also declined, with prices falling to the low-$60’s per cwt late in the month.
Early November prices have averaged above $100, the USDA-ERS said, but given the higher 2017 beef production forecast and the large amount of beef currently held in cold storage, prices are likely to remain under pressure.
2017 BEEF PRODUCTION SEEN HIGHER
Beef production in 2017 was forecast to be just over 4% higher than last year, compared with last month, when it was expected to be less than 4% higher.
Fed cattle prices for 2017 likewise were reduced from last month and were forecast to average $102 to $110 per cwt.
Retail beef prices have been known to show a delayed response to changes in cattle and wholesale beef prices, and in October retail beef began to submit to the pressure of lower cattle prices, the report said. Retail choice beef in September was $5.87 a pound, about 1% lower than in August and 6% lower than 2015.
BEEF IMPORTS REVISED DOWNWARD
Third-quarter beef imports totaled 751 million pounds, down 16% from the same period last year, USDA-ERS said. Estimated fourth-quarter imports were revised downward by 10 million pounds from the previous forecast to 635 million pounds.
Each month’s imports this year have been below those of 2015 as supplies from Australia have tightened with herd rebuilding. Domestic cow slaughter also has been higher.
BEEF EXPORTS REVISED DOWNWARD
While third-quarter 2016 exports came in at 659 million pounds, up 22% from last year, the report said September export data and reported October export sales were weaker than expected. As a result, government economists made slight downward revisions of 10 million pounds in expected exports to 645 million for the fourth-quarter of this year.
Exports have been running above last year, with stronger Mexican exports, the USDA-ERS report said. Although the depreciation of the peso continues to affect the competitiveness of US beef despite declines in US wholesale prices, beef exports still are running near or above last year.
CASH CATTLE MARKETS ACTIVE, HIGHER
Cash cattle markets Wednesday were very active with higher prices. After trading last week at mostly $105 per cwt on a live basis and $158 dressed, cattle sold this week in a range from $107.50 to $110 live and at $168 to $170 on a dressed basis.
Earlier in the day, cattle sold in the online Superior Auction at $105.50 to $108.25 in the south to $103.25 to $108.25 in the north.
The USDA’s choice cutout Wednesday was $0.51 per cwt lower at $182.60, while select was off $0.93 at $167.70. The choice/select spread widened to $14.90 from $14.48 with 219 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $125.91 per cwt, down $0.04. This compares with Wednesday’s Nov settlement at $126.97, up $0.37.