Data from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service shows more cows than in recent years moving through markets for culls during July. Nearly all carcass grades (premium white, breaker, boner, and cutter) showed larger volumes compared to July of 2017. Nationally, the exception was premium white carcasses, cows with the most fat, which were down 19% year-over-year. Breakers showed the biggest volume, up 57% compared to last year, followed by boners up 19%, and cutters up 15%. Carcasses under 500lbs were more mixed. Cutters had the higher volumes, up 37% in those weighing 400-500 lbs. and those carcasses under 400 lbs. were up 45% in July compared to a year ago. Breakers under 500 lbs. were up 25%, and boners, were down 58% compared to a year ago. These volumes do not include imported slaughter cows.
July volumes also took a toll on cull cow dressed prices, both in the lighter weight categories and across all carcass grades. Carcasses over 500 lbs. faced lower prices of 10% of more than the year before. Breakers, Boners, and Cutters over 500 lbs. averaged about the same in July at around $122 per cwt. Premium whites were higher averaging $129 per cwt. Lighter carcasses (under 500 lbs.) faced even steeper price declines. Those prices fell by more than 13% compared to a year ago, with 400-500 lbs. cutters bringing the best price nationally of $118 in July.
Higher volumes of cull cows continue to pressure cull cow prices more than the decline in the boxed beef market. Cutter cow cutout volumes are down only 3.7% in July compared the double-digit declines in the dressed cow carcass prices. Still, with cutout values continuing to fall in August, and early weaning starting to take shape, there is likely be downside risk to these cull cow prices in the near future.