Beef: The cash cattle trade developed midweek again last week and was about $2 lower than the prior week. Trade in the South was mostly $124/cwt. on a live basis. Dressed trade in the North was mostly $205. A two-tiered market is developing, with available numbers remaining tighter in the North compared to the southern Plains. Cutout values dropped into Tuesday and then showed some partial recovery into the latter part of the week, while the weekly averages were modestly lower the week earlier. The rib and loin primals were firmer, while the chuck and round primals each dropped by more than $4, on average. Last week’s cattle harvest came in modestly higher at 621,000 head. This was 7,000 head above the prior week and 6,000 head above a year ago. Beef production was estimated at 497 million lb., up 0.8% from the week prior but down 0.7% from a year ago.
Pork: The cutout inched higher last week, but not without trying to head lower. U.S. demand for product usually cools off in April, especially as the supply forecast this year is more than ample, but the near-term interest in pork from all markets has things supported. It is doubtful that the strong gains of the last five weeks can continue, with anticipated weakness on the cutout still to come as April progresses. The forecast is for a partial retracing of the gains made in the last five weeks, but the risk profile of the market sentiment is sideways for a few weeks before moving higher in May and June -- on par with average pricing. Any lows accomplished in the next 30 days likely will be over in a flash, with buying expected to carry the seasonal wave strongly in May. For now, expect weakness, unless trade with China becomes the new trump card.
Poultry: Front-end broiler supplies remained on a moderate growth trajectory for the week ended March 30, according to the latest “Broiler Hatchery” report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Broiler eggs placed in incubators during the week ended March 30 were reported at 231.5 million, a 1.5% increase compared with the same week a year earlier. The six-week moving average is up 1.6% compared with the previous year, as is the year-to-date total for eggs set in incubators. This metric is expected to moderate near current weekly totals through the middle of May, at which point there will be potential for growth. The risk, as identified in the monthly data, is that the current breeder flock is slightly less productive despite being larger in number compared with a year earlier. Chick placements were up 1.1% year over year for the week ending March 30. Chick placement totals remain restrained due to a slightly lower hatchability rate versus a year earlier.
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