Hog Futures Decline Amid Avian Influenza Concerns; Cattle Market Finds Stability

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) cattle futures experienced a tumultuous week, with Friday seeing a stabilization following US testing of ground beef samples for H5N1 avian influenza. Despite this, markets closed lower for the week, according to Reuters.

The week began with wild swings fueled by concerns over avian influenza. On Thursday, both live cattle and feeder cattle futures rallied after the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported negative test results for the virus in ground beef samples from retail stores. However, Wednesday saw a sharp decline in markets amidst worries that a potential positive test could significantly impact consumer demand.

The USDA’s confirmation of bird flu in dairy herds across nine states since late March added further pressure. Given that old dairy cattle are often processed into ground beef, the implications for the market were significant.

Ross Baldwin, hedge strategist for AgMarket.Net, remarked on the week’s volatility, noting that even computer algorithms seemed exhausted by the headlines and fluctuations.

Closing figures for CME June live cattle futures on Friday saw a decrease of 0.125 cent, settling at 176.675 cents per pound, resulting in a 1.1% loss for the week. August feeder cattle experienced a similar trend, dipping 0.475 cent to end at 254.75 cents, marking a 2.2% decrease for the week.

While the USDA assures the safety of meat supplies, ongoing safety studies related to H5N1 are underway. Additionally, starting Monday, lactating dairy cattle are required to test negative for the virus before being shipped across state lines, as part of precautionary measures.

Concerns heightened as news emerged of a Texas dairy farm worker contracting H5N1. Details released on Friday revealed that the individual had not worn respiratory or eye protection and had been exposed to cattle showing symptoms similar to those on a nearby farm with a confirmed outbreak.

In the lean hog market, June futures closed at 98.95 cents per pound, marking a decline of 0.975 cent and reaching the lowest price since March 22. The USDA reported the wholesale pork carcass cutout at $98.12 per cwt, a $0.24 increase from Thursday, while belly values plummeted to $116.85 per cwt, down $4.08.

Overall, the week’s trading reflected the industry’s vulnerability to external factors, particularly disease outbreaks, underscoring the need for ongoing vigilance and risk management strategies within the livestock markets.