Agricultural Prices Dip Down, Down, Down

   For the second week in a row, cattle and beef prices are sharply lower. This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $219.85/cwt, down $6.39 from the previous Friday and down $36.12 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $208.11/cwt, down $8.11 from last week and down $41.36 from a year ago. The choice-select price spread is large at $11.74/cwt.
   Fed cattle prices were also lower this week in heavy volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $133.12/cwt, down $2.89 from last week’s average and down $33.55 from a year ago. The 5-area dressed steer price averaged $214.84/cwt, down $2.86 from the week before and down $49.48 from a year ago.
   If USDA’s planting intentions report turns out to be right, corn prices this year may be the lowest since 2007 The March Prospective Plantings report surprised the market with 93.601 million acres of corn, up 6.4% from last year, up 4.0 percent from the pre-release trade forecast, and the most corn acres since 2013. Corn prices took a hit in response to USDA’s crop acreage predictions. The May corn futures contract settled at $3.54 per bushel today. That is down 16 cents from last week. December corn ended the week at $3.6975/bu.
   Today, the April live cattle futures contract settled at $132.97/cwt today, down $2.88 for the week. June fed cattle settled at $123.57/cwt, down $1.80 from the previous week. The August contract ended the week at $119.57/cwt, down $1.25 from the previous week.
   The lower corn futures offset the lower fed cattle futures to leave feeder cattle largely unchanged. April feeder cattle ended the week at $156.20/cwt, up 38 cents from a week earlier. May futures lost 32 cents this week to close at $154.70/cwt. August feeder cattle settled at $155.00/cwt.
   This week’s cattle slaughter totaled 542,000 head, up 0.4 percent from last week and up 3.2 percent from a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on March 19 was 895 pounds, down 1 pound from the week before, but up 24 pounds from a year ago. This was the 92nd consecutive week with steer weights above the year-ago level.
   Prices at the Oklahoma City Stockyards this week were steady to $3 lower on feeder cattle and steady on calves compared to last week. Volume was light because of the Easter holiday. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $210-$224, 450-500# $184.50-$219, 500-550# $181-$203, 550-600# $184-$190.50, 600-650# $172-$186, 650-700# $164.75-$182, 700-750# $159-$167, 750-800# $153-$158.50, 800-900# $144-$151.50 and 900-1000# $137.25-$142/cwt.
   The Labor Department reports that the U.S. economy added 215,000 jobs to the payrolls in March. The average hourly earnings increased 0.3 percent from February. Both are good news for meat demand. ∆
   DR. RON PLAIN AND DR. SCOTT BROWN: Agricultural Economists, University of Missouri

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