Weekly Cattle Summary: Exports Confirmed as Remaining High as WASDE Report Predicts 4.5 per cent Output Drop

US - March was the tenth consecutive month seeing cattle exports outstrip imports, an encouraging sign considering record beef prices, say Professors Ron Plain and Scott Brown at the University of Missouri.
calendar icon 14 April 2014
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Ron Plain
Ron Plain

U.S. beef exports were up 3.2 per cent in February compared to a year ago thanks to increased shipments to Japan, Mexico and Hong Kong.

Imports of beef into the U.S. were down 2.0 per cent in February with less beef coming in from Brazil, Uruguay, and Mexico. During February, beef exports equaled 10.22 per cent of production and imports equaled 9.56 per cent of production.

This was the tenth consecutive month with exports greater than imports, which is encouraging given that U.S. beef prices are at record levels.

Cattle imports were up 0.3 per cent in February with fewer coming north from Mexico, but more coming south from Canada.

Domestic meat demand in February was up 2.7 per cent with beef demand up 0.6 per cent compared to a year ago. Export demand for U.S. beef was up 10.7 per cent in February.

The April WASDE raised both USDA's forecast of 2014 beef production and their price forecast for the year. They now predict 2014 beef production will be down 4.5 per cent from last year to the lowest level since 2004. Their forecast for fed cattle prices is for the average to be somewhere between $144/cwt and $151/cwt. That is far above last year's record of $125.89/cwt.

Fed cattle sales were extremely light again this week. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $149.32/cwt, down $2.11 from last week's record price, but up $22.09 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers was $240.39/cwt.

Boxed beef prices were lower again this week. This morning the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $222.27/cwt, down $6.90 from the previous Friday. The select carcass cutout is $212.96/cwt, down $5.49 from last week.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 573,000 head, down 1.7 per cent from the previous week and down 5.6 per cent from the corresponding week last year. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on March 29 was 852 pounds, down 4 pounds from the week before, but up 1 pound from a year earlier.

Feeder cattle prices at this week's Oklahoma City auction were mostly steady to $3 higher than the week before. This week's prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight were: 400-450# $210-$255.50, 450-500# $220-$244, 500-550# $207-$224, 550-600# $198-$223, 600-650# $186-$215, 650-700# $180-$207.50, 700-750# $173.50-$187, 750-800# $167-$179, 800-900# $161-$174, and 900-1000# $154-$163/cwt.

Cattle futures were higher this week. The April live cattle futures contract closed at $144.85/cwt today, up $1.80 from last week's close. June fed cattle settled at $135.77, up 97 cents for the week. August settled at $133.77/cwt, up $1.50 from the previous Friday. October cattle closed at $138.22/cwt.

Feeder cattle futures were also higher for the week. The April feeder cattle contract ended the week at $179.50/cwt, up $1.80 for the week. May feeders closed at $180.07/cwt, up $1.57 from the previous Friday.

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