The cash trade for fed cattle continues to look for solid footing in the shifting sand of an uncertain market as the month progresses. Even though cash prices backed off around $2 for the week ending Jan. 13, fed cattle prices in general remain strong.

Just like last year, the market continues to move cattle at an excellent pace, which bodes well for a year where heavier supplies of live cattle will be a major factor. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 93,313 head, compared with about 85,777 head the previous week. The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 209,718 head, compared with about 174,594 the previous week.     

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 611,000 head, compared with 609,000 head the same week last year. 

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 55,000 head, compared with about 46,000 head the previous week. The packers have about 229,000 head of forward contracts available for January and 193,000 head in February.

Now looking at prices, the Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price was $119.92 per cwt, compared with $121.61 the previous week, which was $1.69 lower. The weighted average cash dressed steer price for the Five Area region was $191.72, compared with $193.83 the previous week, down $2.11.

The Five Area average formula price was $195.52, compared with $193.43 the previous week, making it $2.09 higher. This is normal, as the formula price tracks a week behind the cash.  

The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending Dec. 30 was 902 pounds, 1 pound lower than the prior week, but that compares with 900 pounds the same week last year. This was a big item again because it’s only the second time it’s been higher than last year in a very long time.

The Choice-Select spread was $6.59 on Friday, compared with $7.19 the previous week and $4.26 last year. This spread always drops this time of the year because of lower Choice steak sales and increasing roast-type items which are less dependent on the Choice grade.