Following an unusually strong December, the cash trade for fed cattle started the New Year by taking a small step back in both volume and price for the week ending Jan. 6. Was it just a chance to catch its breath before beginning another counter-intuitive market year?  

The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 174,594 head, compared with about 190,766 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 85,777 head, compared with about 66,480 head the previous week.   

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 541,000 head, compared with 543,000 head the same week last year. 

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 46,000 head, compared with about 31,000 head the previous week. The packers have about 229,000 head of forward contracts available for January and 191,000 head in February.

Now looking at the prices, the Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price was $121.61 per cwt, compared with $122.84 the previous week, which was $1.23 lower. The weighted average cash dressed steer price for the Five Area region was $193.83, compared with $194.50 the previous week, for a drop of 67 cents.

The Five Area average formula price was $193.43, compared with $191.38 the previous week, making it $2.05 higher.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending Dec. 23 was 903 pounds, which was 1 pound heavier than the week prior. However, it compares with 897 pounds the same week last year. This is an important milestone because it’s the first time in a very long time that carcass weights have been heavier than the year before.

The Choice-Select spread was $7.19 on Friday, compared with $9.92 the previous week and a $5.59 spread 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.