Calves at weaning age

Cattle prices were holding steady or moving higher to begin the month of August. Andrew Griffith, University of Tennessee ag economist, says this is not usually the case.

“It is rare this time of year to be able to say that all classes of cattle are witnessing steady to stronger prices, but that is the case in today’s market,” he says. “One would generally expect calf prices and slaughter cow prices to begin softening at this point in the summer. However, slaughter cow and slaughter bulls remain in strong demand.”

The ongoing coronavirus situation is playing a part in these price trends.

“This is likely due to the demand for lean grinding beef that has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers are pulling ground beef off meat counter shelves rapidly,” Griffith says.

After a tough spring, calf prices are trying to hold their own, but Griffith says there might be some pressure on them in the coming months.

“From the calf price standpoint, calf prices are holding their own and this is most likely due to how low prices were in the spring,” he says.

Griffith says yearling cattle sales in the coming months could present an opportunity.

“The group of cattle producers that are probably the most excited are those that shoot for yearling cattle sales during the August and September time frame,” he says. “The yearling cattle market has found support at just the right time as feedlots look to secure cattle that will come off feed during the early winter time period. The market will then morph into cattle feeders looking for cattle that will come off feed to hit next year’s grilling season.”

There are signs of hope in cattle markets, but Griffith cautions things can change quickly during the pandemic.

“There is definitely optimism in the market right now, but optimism has a way of turning into pessimism rather quickly these days,” he says. “Producers should take advantage of the marketing opportunity being made available to them right now. If the cattle will make money with a sale today then move them. If the cattle need a few more days of growing then try to forward contract the cattle.”

Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.