by Ron Plain and Scott Brown
It is getting dry in too many places. USDA says only 63% of the corn crop was in good or excellent condition on June 17. That compares to 66% good or excellent the week before and 70% a year ago. The Crop Progress report says 56% of the soybean crop was rated good or excellent on June 17 compared to 60% a week earlier and 68% a year ago. Nationally, 28% of pastures were rated poor or very poor in mid June. That compares to 27% poor or very poor the week before and 25% a year ago.
Preliminary data indicate retail beef demand may have rebounded in May after a 1.8% decline in April. Export demand for beef was down 9.9% in April. Fed cattle demand was down 5.6% in April and down 0.3% in May. Thus far, 2012 domestic meat demand appears little changed from January-May 2011.
Cattle slaughter during the first five months of 2012 was down 2.8%. Beef cow slaughter was down 7.2%, steer slaughter was down 2.1% and heifer slaughter was down 4.2%. The sharp drop in both heifer slaughter and beef cow slaughter may indicate the early stage of herd rebuilding. However, January-May dairy cow slaughter was up 4.4% compared to last year leaving combined beef and dairy cow slaughter down only 1.7%, less than the drop in steer slaughter and down less than the decline in the January 1 cow inventory (which was down 2.2%).
The beef carcass cutout value was lower this week. On Friday morning, the choice boxed beef carcass cutout value was $196.90/cwt, down $1.68 from the previous Friday. The select carcass cutout was down 96 cents from the previous week to $180.44/cwt of carcass weight. The choice-select spread is now a strong $16.46/cwt.
Fed cattle prices were also lower this week. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $117.80/cwt, down $1.68 from last week, but up $5.63/cwt from the same week last year. Steer prices on a dressed basis averaged $187.97/cwt this week, down $3.35 from a week ago, but up $9.11 from a year ago.
This weekðs cattle slaughter totaled 649,000 head, down 0.6% from the week before and down 5.9% from a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on June 9 was 848 pounds, down 2 pounds from the week before, up 19 pounds from a year ago, and above a year earlier for the 22nd week in a row.
Oklahoma City feeder cattle prices this week were mostly $1 to $5 lower with medium and large frame #1 steers selling for: 400-450# $187.50, 450-500# $185-$189, 500-550# $176-$179, 550-600# $169.25-$178.25, 600-650# $160-$167, 650-700# $149-$166, 700-750# $150-$155, 750-800# $145-$153.75, 800-900# $140-$150, and 900-1000# $130-139.75/cwt.
Fed cattle futures ended the week higher. The June live cattle contract settled at $116.90, up 75 cents from the previous Friday. The August contract also settled at $116.90. October ended the week at $121.20 and December at $124.62/cwt.