The Cattle Range Home Page
November 30, 2017
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Slaughter Cattle Weights Trend Lower

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Slaughter Cattle Weights Trend Lower
Steiner Consulting Group Daily Livestock Report

Cattle weights impact the amount of meat actually showing up in the marketplace. Actual weight data is reported with a bit of a lag as USDA needs time to collect and compile all data it receives from inspectors at slaughter facilities. The latest data available is for the week ending November 11. The report showed that the average steer weight for the week was 902 pounds (dressed carcass), 16 pounds (-1.7%) less than the same week a year ago. 

Seasonally fed cattle weights increase in summer and fall but this year the increase has not been as big as in the last two years. Feedlots have been able to market cattle in a more timely fashion and strong beef demand has allowed beef packers to process more cattle while at the same time preserving their quite lofty margins. 

The chart above shows our estimates for weights for the last two weeks as well as our expectations for the current week. The weight data for week ending November 18 will be released at around 11 AM CT today and we expect it will show weight near the same level as the previous week. However, we think cattle carcass weights likely declined during Thanksgiving week and will be only marginally higher this week. This expectation is based on the daily slaughter numbers from the USDA Mandatory Price Reporting system. Seasonally steer weights decline in December, in part because packers need to fill orders for holiday business and thus will maintain the slaughter pace. 

Winter normally means lower weights so normally we should see fed cattle weights continue to drift lower between now and the end of April. The decline in fed cattle weights has reduced the amount of beef coming to market. Total cattle slaughter in November averaged 619,000 head per week (this is both fed and non fed). The average cattle carcass weight for this period was around 829 pounds (this includes heifers and cows), down 1.5% from the same period a year ago. So while slaughter is up 3%, the amount of beef on a dressed carcass basis is only up 1.5% y/y.

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