Cattle Outlook: Beef exports exceed beef imports in November

November U.S. beef exports exceeded beef imports for the first month since February 2014. U.S. beef imports during November were down 26.6% compared to a year earlier thanks to a sharp decline in shipments from Australia, New Zealand and Canada. November imports equaled 9.8% of U.S. beef production. U.S. beef exports were down 0.9% compared to November 2014 with less beef going to Japan and more to Mexico and South Korea. U.S. beef exports equaled 10.5% of production.

Imports of cattle were down 44% during November with a 59% decline in cattle coming south from Canada and a 30% decline in cattle coming north from Mexico.

USDA estimates 2015 U.S. meat production was 2.8% higher than in 2014 and is forecasting a 2.7% increase in production during 2016. That is much faster growth than for the population, thus meat prices are expected to decline. USDA expects a 4.3% increase in beef production, a 1.6% increase in pork production, a 1.8% increase in broiler production and a 7.5% increase in turkey production compared to 2015. They expect pork production to exceed beef production for the second year in a row.

Cattle prices were lower this week. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $131.84/cwt, down $2.13 from last week's average and down $38.04 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price this week for steers was $210.02/cwt, down $1.50 for the week and down $60.60 compared to the same week last year.

This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $231.23/cwt, up $20.40 from the previous Friday. The select carcass cutout was $224.59/cwt, up $21.46 from last week.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 550,000 head, up 25.3% from last week and up 1.5% from a year ago.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on December 26 was 906 pounds, down 1 pound from the week before, but up 9 pounds from a year ago. This was the 80th consecutive week with weights above the year-ago level.

There were no feeder cattle auctions at Oklahoma City the last two weeks because of the holidays. This week feeder cattle prices at the Oklahoma City Stockyards were $10 to $25 higher than three weeks ago. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $194-$229, 450-500# $209-$225, 500-550# $192.50-$208.50, 550-600# $176-$195, 600-650# $158-$186.50, 650-700# $169-$179.75, 700-750# $163-$174, 750-800# $164-$171, 800-900# $155-$169 and 900-1000# $162-$166.50/cwt.

Cattle futures were lower this week. The February live cattle futures contract settled at $132.87/cwt today, down $3.93 for the week. April fed cattle settled at $133.82/cwt, down $4.15 from the previous week. The June contract ended the week at $124.27/cwt. January feeder cattle ended the week at $159.42/cwt, down $4.40 from a week earlier. March futures lost $6.33 this week to close at $157.32/cwt.