CME: Livestock Producers, Processors and Markets

US - As the calendar has turned from June to July, we thought it would be fitting to take stock on the year so far for livestock producers, processors and markets, write Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.
calendar icon 6 July 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Here are a few highlights and what they might imply for coming months:

  • Higher prices that most anyone expected — for just about anything that cattle and hog producers sell. As can be seen in the charts below, prices of hogs and slaughter cattle reached near-record levels in April and May. Feeder cattle, quite understandably, rallied as well but not to record heights as cattle feeders actually showed some discipline in bidding for cattle replace some pretty pricey marketings. All three prices have fallen (cattle feeders might say “crashed“) in recent weeks. All are still at or above their 2004-2008 averages — but they have to be well above those averages if producers are to see profits. Future: Our concern is demand. We think a resurgence of foodservice demand was the key driver to the spring rally but with a “double-dip“ recession now appearing quite possible, it looks like the foodservice sector may be weakening again.

  • Moderating — but in no way cheap — feed prices and costs of production. Last week’s rally for corn futures actually pushed Omaha corn prices 9 per cent higher than last year but that is the first such above-’09 week since early March. DDGS prices (a bigger and bigger feed price factor for both cattle and hogs) are 20 per cent lower than at the end of June 2009 and soybean meal prices are 27 per cent lower than last year. Breakeven costs for hog producers are in the $62 to $65/cwt carcass range. The Livestock Marketing Information Center estimates that feedyard breakevens have been in the high $80/cwt live range in the first half of 2010 but will rise into the mid– to upper-$90s in Q3 as those higher-cost feeder cattle come to market.

  • Mixed export performance with beef seeing handsome growth and pork seeing growth but having nothing to really shout about. Beef exports were 26 per cent higher through April (the last month for which we have monthly data) in spite of shipments to Mexico, our largest market, being down 6 per cent. Weekly beef export data through April said +24 per cent, year-onyear, so it agrees with the monthly data pretty well. The weekly data through 20 June shows 2010 shipments up 25 per cent from last year. Pork exports were up only 1.5 per cent through April, hampered primarily by virtually no shipments to China and Russia and a 7 per cent decline in trade with Japan. The China and Russia situations have been resolved we are told so these numbers could improve sharply the second half of the year. There are no weekly export data for pork — yet.
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