Cattle Dressed Weights Begin Seasonal Slide

Cattle dressed weights likely are beginning a seasonal slide that could take them below last year, although a test of the previous five-year average does not appear imminent.

Part of Wednesday’s drama in the cattle futures market was talk of seasonal declines in dressed weights and the consequent lower beef production.  Steer and heifer dressed weights are beginning a seasonal slide, but with overall cattle dressed weights holding about steady, it appears that cow carcass weights are holding up average weights.

But for the time being, all weights are above last year and the 2010-2014 average.

Federally inspected dressed weights using data from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and the National Agricultural Statistics Service shows average weights holding about steady with the latest entry at 833 pounds.  This was 12 pounds, or 1.46%, above last year’s 821 pounds and 45.8 pounds, or 5.82%, above the 2009-2014 average of 787.2.

Preliminary data for the last week of February shows weights dipping to 831 pounds, 13 pounds, or 1.59%, above the 818 pounds in the same week a year ago and 45.2 pounds, or 5.75%, above the five-year average of 785.8 pounds.




USDA-AMS and USDA-NASS data show that average steer carcass weights fell about eight pounds in mid-February to 891 pounds, a decline of 0.90% from 899 just a week before.

Federally inspected steer weights shows a downturn at the seasonal time in mid-February.  It also shows weights remained 10 pounds, or 1.14%, above last year’s 881 pounds and 39 pounds, or 4.58%, above the five-year average of 852 pounds.

The seasonal tendency for dressed weights to decline in late winter and early spring is strong, led mainly by winter’s ravages on the animals, rising fed cattle prices and by an influx of feeder cattle that must be taken off wheat pasture before they graze away the crop-producing potential.

However, at least one trader said there could be more wheat grazed out this year as grain prices are low.  This could delay the availability of feeder cattle for the feedlots and help keep placement rates in check and help support carcass weights.




USDA data also show declines in heifer carcass weights.  In the second week of February, AMS and NASS data show heifer carcass weights at 828 pounds, down one from the previous week and down nine from this year’s top of 837 pounds set the third week of January.

However, heifer weights remained 11 pounds, or 1.35%, above the 817-pound average in the same week a year earlier.  The latest weights also were up 35.2 pounds, or 4.44%, above the 2010-2014 average.

With the latest declines, heifer carcass weights are behaving more like the five-year average than last year, which had a longer period of relatively flat weights before succumbing to the seasonal tendencies.