The USDA Thursday reported total US commercial red meat production in September of 3.96 billion pounds, up 1% from 3.94 billion produced in September 2013, with the gains coming from pork and from lamb and mutton production. Monthly beef production remained below a year ago by the thinnest margin this year.
September beef production was put at 2.067 billion pounds, 7 million pounds, or 0.34%, below the year-earlier rate of 2.074 billion pounds. Compared with the previous five-year average of 2.197 billion pounds, September beef production was down 13 million, or 5.92%.
To arrive at that rate of production, cattle slaughter for the month totaled 2.53 million head, down 3% from a year earlier, which was nearly countered by an average live weight that was up 31 pounds from September 2013 at 1,344 pounds.
For the year to date, beef production totaled 18.229 billion pounds, down 1.068 billion pounds, or 5.53%, from 19.297 billion last year and down 1.436 billion, or 7.30%, from the five-year average of 19.665 billion pounds.
Commercial beef production plotted as a weekly average for the month shows production well below last year and the average even though it rose through August and September. Going forward, the weekly average for October should decline.
A graph of monthly commercial beef production by the Livestock Marketing Information Center shows September beef production approached last year’s rate through a sharp seasonal drop in the 2013 month combined with a small monthly bump this year.
The seasonal trend is for October beef production to rise and form one of the three annual production peaks. The average shows the October peak usually is the lowest of the three, but last year’s jump produced the highest production month of the year.
PORK PRODUCTION RISES
As beef production struggled, pork production was up from last year as average weights increased, overcoming a deficit in slaughter rates.
The USDA reported September pork production of 1.872 billion pounds, up 29 million, or 1.57%, from 1.843 billion in the 2013 month. However, monthly pork production was 73 million, or 3.75%, below the previous five-year average of 1.945 million.
Pork production is following a seasonal trend higher. The peak is in October as spring-born pigs come to market as butcher hogs. Pork production then falls off in November.
For the first three quarters of 2014, pork production totaled 16.713 billion pounds, 200 million, or 1.18%, less than a year ago’s 16.913 million, and 116 million, or 0.69%, below the average 16.829 billion.
CASH CATTLE TRADE HIGHER
This week’s cash cattle trade turned active at midday Thursday as packer buyers stepped up to the plate and swung at $170-per-cwt asking prices on a live basis, $6 to $7 above last week’s $163 to $164. Few, if any, dressed-basis quotes were reported.
Those prices were much higher than many in the trade had expected and pushed futures prices higher for the day before running into sell orders around $170 in the Dec contract. Overnight CME activity also is higher but nearby Oct continues to find selling interest at $170.
The higher cash cattle prices came in opposition to weaker beef markets. The USDA reported choice boxed beef down $1.57 per cwt at $249.43 and select off $1.53 at $233.54. The choice/select spread narrowed to $15.89 from $15.93, and there were 183 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was off $1.12 to $239.34. The Oct futures contract settled Thursday at $240.22, up $0.77.