Higher Cattle and Beef Prices

After almost a full month into the new year, cattle prices and wholesale beef values are up across the board.  

Steer calf prices across the South and Southern Plains have kicked off the year higher.  Steers weighing 5-600 pounds have increased from $246 per cwt in early January to $254 nearing the end of the month.  In the Southern Plains, the same weight calves hit $300 per cwt, up from $284 to begin the year.  In both market areas, prices are 40 percent higher than they were at this time in 2023.  It’s worth remembering that prices in early 2023 had not yet experienced the sharp increase, that came mid-year, so we are comparing against a low base but, prices have advanced from December 2023.  Prices for these weight steers do tend to increase seasonally from the first of the year through March but, these price increases represent a much more than normal seasonal increase.

Heavier feeder steers across the South have increased at a more modest pace, up about 3-4 percent during January.  Higher prices buck the normal seasonal pattern of 7-800 pound steer prices that typically decline through March.  Heavy feeder prices are typically pressured by increased sales of cattle that have finished grazing wheat pasture.  

Fed cattle have climbed a few dollars, finishing last week at about $174 per cwt.  Fed cattle prices do tend to increase in the Spring seasonally, but  it’s a little early for a Spring rally.  There are about 2 percent more cattle on feed than last year, and those increased numbers may limit some price increase.  Good consumer demand in the presence of retailers who have purchased less beef for future delivery than last year could set the stage for an even better price rally.

On the beef side, the Choice beef cutout value hit over $300 per cwt last week, that’s up over $20 per cwt since the year began.  The increase appears to be led by chucks and rounds and ground beef.  

January shows a promising start for cattle prices this year.  Fewer calves, cattle, and beef production has set the stage for even higher prices later in the year. 

Preview – on Wednesday afternoon USDA will release its annual Cattle inventory report.  Next week’s SAT will focus on what stood out from the report to our livestock economists in the South.