High U.S. Beef Contributes To Low Trade Numbers

   U.S. beef exports were down 6.6 percent in March. It was the sixth consecutive month with exports lower than last year. The biggest declines were in shipments to Mexico and to Hong Kong. U.S. beef imports were up 33.3 percent in March. This was the 13th consecutive month with imports above the year-earlier level. At 325 million pounds, March beef imports were the highest of any month since July 2005. During March, 9.59 percent of U.S. beef production was exported and imports equaled 16.83 percent of U.S. production. High U.S. beef prices and a strong dollar are the two main causes of the disappointing trade numbers.
   Cattle imports during March were down a slight 0.2 percent from a year ago with imports from Mexico up 16.0 percent and imports from Canada down 13.3 percent.
   Domestic meat demand has been strong in recent months, but export demand is weak. Domestic beef demand was up 7.3 percent in March. It was up for the 14th consecutive month. Export demand was down 5.7 percent.
   USDA rated 53 percent of pastures in the 48 contiguous states as being in good or excellent condition on May 3. That is up from 39 percent good and excellent a year ago.
   Fed cattle prices this week were a bit higher on moderate volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $159.77/cwt, up 60 cents from last week's average and up $9.75 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price this week for steers was $255.04/cwt, up $1.14 for the week and up $18.99 compared to the same week last year.
   This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $258.2/cwt, up $3.70 from the previous Friday and up $34.31 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $246.80/cwt this morning, up $4.42 from last week and up $33.63 from a year ago.
   Cattle slaughter this week totaled 567,000 head, up 0.2 percent from the week before, but down 5.5 percent from the same week last year. Year-to-date cattle slaughter is down 7.3 percent and beef production is down 5.0 percent. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on April 25 was 866 pounds, down 6 pounds from the week before, but up 25 pounds compared to the same week last year.
   Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were mostly steady to $4 higher this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $310-$330, 450-500# $279-$302, 500-550# $277-$291, 550-600# $263-$285, 600-650# $230-$262, 650-700# $219-$245, 700-750# $223-$234, 750-800# $210-$221.85, 800-900# $194-$216.25, and 900-1000#, $179.50-$198.50/cwt.
   Cattle futures rallied this week. The June live cattle futures contract settled at $151.50/cwt today, up $2.33 for the week. August fed cattle settled at $149.82/cwt, up $2.00 from the previous week. October fed cattle gained $1.60 this week to settle at $151.20/cwt. The May feeder cattle contract ended the week at $215.87/cwt, up $2.25 for the week. ∆
   DR. RON PLAIN AND DR. SCOTT BROWN: Agricultural Economists, University of Missouri

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