Seasonal weight jump earlier than normal

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jun 20, 2007
by WLJ
20, 2005

— Northern tier cattle 30-40 pounds heavier.
— Cool weather could intensify front-end supplies.

The normal seasonal summer spike in finishing weights of fed cattle started this year several weeks earlier than normal, and analysts are concerned that unseasonably cool weather could make the issue of front-end supplies even more severe over the next couple of months.
For the week ending June 12, the average live finishing weights of steers being processed was 1,260 pounds, 18 pounds heavier than last year. Average steer carcass weights for that same week were 824 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than a year ago.
The biggest jump in finishing weights has been seen in the northern tier cattle feeding states. Nebraska fed steers averaged a finishing weight of 1,321 pounds for the week ending June 12. That figure is 40 pounds heavier than the same time a year ago. Carcass weights for the state were 23 pounds heavier at 833 pounds.
In Iowa, average steer slaughter weights were 1,323 pounds, 30 pounds heavier than a year ago.
Southern cattle feeding states weren’t showing increases as big. Weights, however, were still heavier than a year ago. In Texas, for the week ending June 12, steer weights averaged 1,232 pounds, 22 pounds heavier, while Kansas cattle were averaging six pounds heavier, at 1,251.
Analysts were very concerned with this trend because a lot fewer cattle are needed to provide even more beef than what was produced last year.
“The U.S. processed almost six percent fewer cattle (between June 6-11) than last year, however, beef production was just under four percent of last year’s levels,” said John Ridenour, market analyst with HPP Livestock, Wichita, KS. “If slaughter rates were similar to last year, the U.S. would be producing at least two percent more beef with average finishing weights where they are at.”
Several analysts last week said the heavier weights are already leading to an accumulation of cattle being held over week-to-week, or a situation known as “front-end” supplies. Ridenour said that while an earlier-than-normal front-end supply situation was somewhat expected this year, the severity of it could be worse than forecasted.
“It’s not surprising that cattle are a little bit heavier when being slaughtered this year, but for a lot of those cattle to be 30 and 40 pounds heavier is shocking,” he said.
One of the primary reasons for that extra weight being put on by cattle is the unseasonably cool weather felt by central Plains and northern tier cattle feeding states during the past month to six weeks.
Chad Dolittle, statistician with Iowa City, IA-based MW Commodities, indicated that between May 1 and June 10 there were only five days across Iowa, Nebraska, and eastern Colorado that were the same temperature or hotter than the previous five-year average.
“In a lot of areas, daily temperatures were 12-15 degrees cooler, which made feeding conditions for cattle much more comfortable than normal,” Dolittle said. “We’ve figured that 10-15 degree decline in temperatures probably resulted in cattle gaining at least a half to three-quarters of a pound extra per day than usual for this time of year. Over a month that is an extra 15-22 pounds being added to an animal’s weight.”
Ridenour said that if cooler-than-normal weather continues through June and early July, that finished cattle supplies could get even more burdensome on the market. As a result, he indicated that cattle feeders probably need to adjust their feeding regimens, particularly on cattle originally slated for market slots in August and September.
“We could see a good two week holdover on slaughter-ready cattle the next few weeks, which means the supply pressure in a couple of months could be overly intense,” Ridenour said. “It’s probably smart for some cattle to be fed less, in order for them to be ready for market a little later than originally projected.”
Other market sources said that the most recent developments concerning BSE could slow down slaughter volumes even further, due to a decline in both domestic and export confidence in U.S. beef.
“If things don’t improve from a demand standpoint, and management continues to move forward with current feeding regimens, we could see cattle 60 pounds-or-more heavier than the previous few years,” said Ridenour. “That would be very hard to get out from under.” — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor

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