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Cattle futures climb, despite week’s direct trade

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live and feeder cattle futures were higher, waiting for the rest of the week’s direct business, with support from the broader market. The Federal Reserve Wednesday left interest rates unchanged and there are indications rates could be lowered in 2024. The USDA says 2023 beef export sales were up on the week and larger than average, mainly to South Korea and Japan, with 2024 sales of 5,100 tons, led by Japan. February live cattle were up $.70 at $167.92 and April was $.62 higher at $171.57. January feeders were $1.97 higher at $219.35 and March was up $2.27 at $220.12.

Direct cash cattle business was at a standstill. Asking prices were $170 on the live basis and $270 for dressed, with bids of $168 live and $265 to $267 dressed in Nebraska. Some very light trade was reported at $267 to $268 in Nebraska, steady with the reported business so far this week. There were back-to-back days of scattered, light direct cash cattle trade on Tuesday and Wednesday. Dressed deals were marked at $267 to $268, $2 to $3 lower than the prior week’s weighted averages, and live activity mostly at $165 to $167, down $3 to $5. Given how light trade has been, more business is possible Friday, but that will largely depend on packer demand.

Boxed beef closed mixed with good movement. Choice was up $.68 at $292.32 and Select beef was down $.95 at $258.26. The estimated cattle slaughter of 125,000 head was down 1,000 on the week, but up 3,000 on the year.

At the Clarinda Livestock Auction feeder cattle sale in Iowa, compared to the previous week, 500-to-600-pound steer calves were $9 to $10 higher, with 700-to-800-pound steers up $12 to $15. 500-to-600-pound heifers were up $6 to $9 and 600-to-700-pound heifers were $8 to $13 higher. The USDA says fall weather has led to increased flesh on most feeder calves. Receipts were down on the week and the year, with a moderate, but excellent, quality offering of long-term weaned, double vaccinated, high-quality calves and yearlings in load lots, and very good demand. 56% of the offering were steers and 57% of all feeder cattle weighed more than 600 pounds. Medium and Large 1 feeder steers weighing 600 to 700 pounds ranged from $228.50 to $261.25 and 700 to 800-pound steers brought $224 to $239.75. Medium and Large 1 feeder heifers weighing 500 to 600 pounds were reported at $215 to $250 and 600-to-700-pound heifers sold at $201 to $234.

Lean hog futures were supported by technical buying and the lower trade in the U.S. dollar. The USDA says 2023 pork exports were above last week and higher than average at 28,200 tons, primarily to Mexico, with 2024 sales of 12,900 tons, mostly to Mexico and South Korea. February lean was limit up, $3.75 higher, at $70.47 and April was $2.80 higher at $77.17.

Cash hogs were steady to lower with light closing negotiated numbers for the major direct markets. Buyers were once again able to use the ample ready numbers, higher than a year ago average weights, and questions about sustained pork demand for leverage. Business should be largely quiet over the next couple of weeks due to the holidays, but unless buyers run short of those ample ready numbers, a true rally into early next year is unlikely.

National direct barrows and gilts closed $.44 lower with a base price range of $42 to $50 for a weighted average of $49.21. The major regional direct markets were not reported due to confidentiality. The five-day rolling average for Iowa/Southern Minnesota is $49.66, with the Western Corn Belt averaging $49.42 and the Eastern Corn Belt at $50.28. Midwest butcher hogs were steady at $45. Illinois direct sows were $1 lower at $32 to $44 on moderate demand for heavy offerings. Barrows and gilts were down $2 at $27 to $37 on moderate demand and offerings. Boars ranged from $5 to $20.

Pork closed $.36 lower at $83.57. Picnics, ribs, hams, and bellies were weak to sharply lower, with loins up and butts sharply higher. The estimated hog slaughter of 489,000 head was up 1,000 on the week and 15,000 on the year.

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