Weather taking toll on northern Plains cattle feeders.

April 24, 2018

2 Min Read

Beef: With a winter that seemed never-ending, the northern Plains region appears to be reflecting much of the seasonal weather impact. From winter storm Liam in February to Quinn in March and, most recently, Xanto in mid-April, the toll weather has taken on the heart of Nebraska cattle feeding country is noticeable. As discussed in previous Meat Price Outlooks, the tightening of front-end supplies has been largely exacerbated by poor feeding conditions, with anecdotal reports being heard over the past several weeks of cattle producers selling some of the lightest and/or greenest cattle they’ve ever placed on showlists. While carcass weights (on a national level) have been declining seasonally, a closer look at regional delivered dressed weights reported from Nebraska formula sales appears to validate these claims. The cold and wet conditions left reported dressing percentages down 1.5-2.0%, averaging close to 62.25%.

Pork: With the record-large pig crop quarters in the U.S. (likely eight consecutive records when 2018 is analyzed from areas), how will imports of live pigs fare? With U.S. producers fully off from rebuilding the herd and expanding following the devastating effects of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus in 2014, total live animals arriving at U.S. borders from Canada are now on a decline. Producers leaned heavily upon Canadian imports of live pigs in 2015 both for breeding herd expansion as well as feeder pigs. While total live imports add together feeders, the breeding herd and harvest-ready animals, the current trend is still the same: a decline. U.S. producers, during the expansion of the last few years, needed live imports to complement the growth, but that is decreasing and is expected to continue on that path. This demonstrates a much lesser degree of reliance upon the Canadian system for animals.

Poultry: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent “Poultry Slaughter” report pegged average live weights at 6.26 lb. during January and 6.23 lb. during February. The weekly report includes breakouts of harvested totals and weights within the individual weight classes. Cumulative harvested young chickens in the 4.25 lb.-and-under weight range are down 9% from a year ago, while the middle two segments are essentially unchanged from their prior-year gains, and the weekly harvest in the 7.76 lb.-plus category is up 5% from a year ago. Over the last four weeks, however, the upper weight range has dropped by nearly 7 million birds per week from the prior week, which has been showing up in the 6.26-7.75 lb. average weight range. The shuffling of supplies to accommodate year-ago premiums is expected to aid spot market relief in the near term.

For a more detailed look at the weekly forecasts for the various meat sectors and meat cuts, subscribe to the "Meat Price Outlook." Contact Susan Dahlgren at [email protected] for more information.

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