20 year record broken15 July 2003
The week ending June 8 broke a more than twenty year old record for the highest number of cattle slaughtered in a single week. According to figures from federally inspected slaughter, 791,000 head were culled. Despite the impressive numbers the overall level of slaughter is down 0.2% compared with last year. Heavy Texas steers, the usual benchmark of American prices, began May selling at $62.50-$63.50 but traded down to $60 by mid month. Many expected to see $59 on 60/62 lb averages until on a Tuesday morning of the third week, one lone, long dead cow had its brains examined, as a routine matter and BSE was discovered. Several major producers, especially those that regularly imported western Canadian cattle to slaughter, withdrew their offerings as did others who wanted to sit back and wait for a clarification of the situation. Meanwhile, Canadian slaughter fell to almost zero before recovering to about half the normal quantity several days later. This caused some traders with large short positions as well as a handful of Asian tanners to hedge their under bought/short positions by tempting those packers willing to sell with bids at $62. A few producers gladly and, in hindsight, cleverly accepted. By the last week of the month, prices had settled back to $60 and then mostly to traders who were short and were concerned about meeting delivery schedules. By the second week in June, Heavy Texas steers averaging 58/60 lb had fallen to $58. Federal inspected slaughter averaged 744,750 head for the four week period ending June 15. This is up 1.7% compared with the same period last year. Korea was once again the largest buyer of US raw hides over the same period taking an 579,200 head. This was followed by China (568,300), Japan, (198,400), Taiwan (187,500), Hong Kong (165,400), Mexico (139,500), Italy (101,500), Thailand (68,400) and Canada (14,400) who all took significant numbers. Wet-blue sales averaged 101,550 in late May and mid June with Hong Kong and Taiwan being the most popular destinations. Sizeable amounts were also taken by Italy and China. Italy also purchased 77,400 salted kip skins in late May and 78,700 in early June.