LIVESTOCK-Tyson ban drives US cattle futures to 3-month high

Thu Aug 8, 2013 5:30pm EDT
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* Feeder cattle follow live cattle higher
    * Live cattle futures help lift CME hogs

    By Theopolis Waters
    CHICAGO, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Chicago Mercantile Exchange live
cattle futures on Thursday hit a three-month high fueled
by speculation that beef prices could rise after Tyson Foods Inc
 said it would no longer buy cattle given the feed
additive Zilmax.
    In a letter, Tyson Foods, the country's largest meat
processor, notified all feedlot operators it would suspend
Zilmax-fed cattle purchases starting Sept. 6.
    Tyson said it made the decision after recent instances of
cattle arrived at some of its plants with difficulty walking or
unable to move. 
    The company said it was unsure what caused the problems, but
some animal health experts suggested a possible link to Zilmax. 
    Zilmax can help put more than 20 pounds on cattle during
their last few weeks in feedlots before being sent to packing
plants for processing.
    Livestock economists and analysts believe some cattle given
the additive may have been unable to handle the stress of the
additional weight. 
    "The futures market has a perfect storm of improved
wholesale beef prices, fund buying and now the Tyson news," Oak
Investment Group president Joe Ocrant said.
    He said beef costs could climb as cattle weights come down,
if other packers follow Tyson's lead. Also cattle, and thus
beef, could be harder to come by after last summer's drought
damaged crops which shrunk the U.S. herd to a 61-year low.
    As the morning progressed, futures eased from session highs
as investors took profits while others were more guarded about
Tyson's plans.
    "The decision could help level off and maybe push weights
down slightly this year and next, but the declines will not be
as significant as some expect," Paragon Economics president
Steve Meyer said in his newsletter. 
     "A big wild card is how other packers react and whether
lower feed costs encourage producers to feed cattle longer," he
     Recent futures advances and beef cutout gains could prompt
packers to spend more for cattle this week, traders said.
     Cash cattle bids in the Southern Plains were at $117 per
cwt with no response from sellers, feedlot sources said. 
     Last week, cash cattle in Texas traded at $119 per cwt and
mostly at $119 in Kansas, with some at $120. Most live-basis
cattle in Nebraska last week sold at $120.50.
     The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday afternoon
quoted the wholesale price of choice beef at $188.31 per cwt,
down 35 cents from Wednesday. Select cuts were up 38 cents to
     August live cattle futures ended up 1.450 cents at
122.675 cents per lb. October closed 2.400 cents higher
at 127.075 cents. The contract earlier hit its 3-cent price
limit of 128.675 cents. 
     CME feeder cattle drew support from the run up in the live
cattle market.
     August feeders closed at 154.250 cents, up 1.675
cents per lb, while September closed at 157.825 cents,
1.450 cents higher.
     The upswing in the live cattle market and higher wholesale
pork values lifted CME hogs, traders and analysts said.
     "It's possible that higher beef prices could pull up pork
along with them," a trader said.
     Government data Thursday morning showed the wholesale pork
price, or cutout, at $105.90 per hundredweight (cwt) which was
78 higher than on Wednesday. 
     Conducive grilling weather and grocers buying meat for the
U.S. Sept. 2 Labor Day holiday benefited wholesale pork values.
     And packers that were closed on Monday for a floater
holiday, slowed the flow of fresh pork to end-users. Plants that
were dark on Monday plan to make up that downtime on Saturday.
    A major pork processor will be closed on Friday due to tight
hog supplies, according to traders and analysts.
    Spot August hogs were guided by CME's hog index which was at
101.08 cents.  
    Spot August hogs closed at 100.625 cents per lb, or
up 0.400 cent. Most-actively traded October ended at
85.250 cents, or 0.325 cent higher.