Cattle Carcass Weights Bounce Seasonally

Right on time seasonally, slaughter steer dressed weights appear to be turning up, and market cues to produce larger cattle can only add to the trend.

As fall’s placements of younger calves into feedlots work their way through the system and more yearling placement are slaughtered, the slaughter weights go up.  The low point in slaughter weights happens on or around the last week of April.  Last year, it occurred the second week of May.

This year, it appears to have bottomed the last week of April.

The average bounce in carcass weights from the low to the October high is 5.72% going to 868.4 pounds from 821.4 pounds.

Assuming this year’s bottom was 865 pounds the last week of April and adding the 5.72% to it, the top carcass weight this year could be 914.5 pounds, which would top eclipse last year’s peak of 906 pounds by 8.48 pounds.

However, last year, carcass weights peaked at 906 pounds the third week of November, rising 67 pounds, or 7.99%.  Applying the same percentage rise to this year’s apparent bottom in carcass weights yields an annual high carcass weight of 934 pounds

Such weights apparently are being targeted by some who see placing very heavy feeder cattle into feedlots with a goal of turning out behemoths for slaughter as the only way to dial down the currently hefty per-head losses.

When that peak in carcass weights will occur is more of a guess, however.  Judging from the previous five-year average, the peak weight will come on or about the first week of October.  If last year, when the peak came the third week of November, is to be more of a judge, it will happen later.

And it seems clear that this year’s peak in carcass weights will be higher than last year.  Already the graph shows a gradual widening of weekly carcass weights when compared with last year and the previous five-year average.




Those heavier carcass weights are supporting beef production.  USDA figures show beef production the third week of May at 459.6 million pounds, only 9.1 million, or 1.94%, below last year’s 468.7 million although it was 50.8 million, or 9.96%, behind the previous five-year average of 510.42 million.

So, while heifer slaughter is down from last year and the average, steer slaughter is off only about 2.57% from last year and 4.90% from the previous five-year average.  It’s like adding about 17,000 head to weekly slaughter rates.




Cash cattle markets were quiet Wednesday.  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 Wednesday were up a little with the USDA choice cutout at $261.11 per cwt, up $0.04, and the select cutout at $249.88, up $0.68.  Volume was active with 128 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $222.11 per cwt, up $0.10.