U.S. livestock: Cattle, hog futures sag as weather stalls slaughter pace

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. cattle and hog futures declined on Wednesday as wintry weather and power outages hampered meat-packing operations, slowing the pace of slaughter and reducing demand for market-ready animals, traders said.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange April live cattle futures settled down 1.65 cents at 124.15 cents/lb., while the spot February contract ended down 0.85 cent at 115.3 cents/lb.

CME March feeder cattle fell 2.35 cents to settle at 138.425 cents/lb.

Cargill said meat plants in three Texas cities would be idled through Thursday because a local utility company has curtailed natural gas availability after a cold snap hit the state.

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A spokeswoman for Tyson Foods said on Tuesday that the firm had suspended or scaled back operations at some facilities.

“Once the news began to circulate that those slaughter plants were not going to be open until Friday… the traders just assumed we are not going to get higher cash (prices), if they don’t need the animals,” said Dan Norcini, an independent livestock trader.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday reported the week-to-date cattle slaughter at 269,000 head, a significant drop from 345,000 head for the same period a week earlier. Similarly, for hogs, the week-to-date kill totaled 1.315 million head, compared with 1.472 million a week ago.

However, wholesale beef prices firmed in response to tightening supplies. Prices for choice cuts of boxed beef rose $2.74, to $237.51/cwt, on Wednesday, while select cut prices surged $3.61, to $225.64/cwt, according to USDA.

For hogs, CME April lean hog futures settled down 1.275 cents at 84.9 cents/lb., snapping a four-session climb.

The cash pork carcass cutout value fell 54 cents, to $89.17/cwt, USDA reported.

— Julie Ingwersen is a Reuters commodities correspondent in Chicago.

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