CAB Insider: Light Weights, Heavy Impact

The latest USDA carcass weight data for the week beginning April 30th brings us ever closer to the lowest anticipated fed steer and heifer carcass weights of 2018. It’s commonly understood that the youngest calf-fed, spring-born animals comprise much of the fed-cattle harvest in May. That brings carcass weights down to their annual lows, as seasonal data has proven time and again. In the past five years, the exact week marking the annual low has varied from early to late May and we have no certainty as to exact timing. The USDA report on actual carcass weight is always two weeks in arrears, but last week’s estimated weights show dressed weights still declining, down 6 lb. on the week prior. The graph depicting Certified Angus Beef (CAB) carcass weights matches very closely with the USDA fed steer and heifer report, with CAB carcasses running just 4 lb. heavier than the average of all steers and heifers so far this year. That disparity comes from the fact that the lightest carcasses often represent leaner cattle with fewer days on feed. Those carcasses would have two strikes against them in terms of probability of reaching the ever-important Premium Choice marbling requirement needed to earn the CAB brand. Although CAB does lose some carcasses due to excess carcass weight above the 1,050-lb. limit, that’s not an important factor this time of year. Two other features that are important to the rapid carcass-weight decline these past few weeks are weather and market conditions. We’ve…

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