Cattle Slaughter Weights Moving Up Counter-Seasonally

Steer and heifer slaughter weights are moving higher at a time when they should be moving lower, beginning the spring rise about six weeks early.

Beef production, however, is holding about steady, following a seasonal pattern.

The average estimated live weight of slaughter cattle last week was 1,376 pounds, up one from the previous week and up 31, or 2.30%, from 1,346 pounds in the same week a year earlier, the USDA said.

Average carcass weights are holding above year-ago and average levels.  The estimated carcass weight last week was 833 pounds, up three from the previous week and up 18, or 2.21%, from 815 pounds in the same week a year earlier.

Heifers apparently are still being held for breeding as they made up 26.7% of the total steer and heifer slaughter last week, compared with 28.3% in the same week a year ago.  Steers last week made up 52.9% of the kill versus 50.1% a year ago.

Total cattle slaughter last week was estimated at 542,000 head, up 2,000, or 0.4%, from 540,000 a week earlier but up 3.2% from 525,000 a year earlier.  For the year to date, cattle slaughter rests at 7.179 million head, up 0.3% from 7.159 million a year earlier.

For that, beef production last week was estimated at 450.7 million pounds, up 0.7% from 447.4 million a week ago and up 5.5% from 427.1 million in the same week a year earlier.  For the year to date, beef production has amounted to 5.954 billion pounds, up 2.0% from 5.836 billion in the same period a year ago.

Seasonally, beef production should rock along in a narrow range until late April when it begins rising to a summer plateau about 25 million pounds higher than the late winter/spring level.




Private sources tell of some very limited cash cattle business in Texas Tuesday at $133 per cwt on a live basis, although the USDA lists no sales yet this week.  Packer buyers were said to be bidding $132 with no takers.

Cash cattle last week traded at $132 to $133 per cwt on a live basis and $214 to $216 on a dressed basis.  Both were down about $3.

The USDA’s choice cutout price Tuesday was up $0.19 per cwt at $217.70, and select was up $2.97 at $209.20.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $8.50 from $11.28 as 138 loads of fabricated product were sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Monday was $158.29 per cwt, up $0.02.  This compares with the Apr CME settlement Tuesday of $152.63, down $2.52.