U.S. beef exports to Japan during July were at their highest level since October 2003. Last month the U.S. exported 11.5% of production, the second highest percent ever. During the first seven months of 2013, beef exports to Japan are up 51.6% compared to a year ago. Total beef exports are ahead of year ago levels by 2.8%. Russia's ban on meat containing ractopamine has basically brought a halt to all shipments there, and beef exports to South Korea are down 27%.

Cattle imports from Mexico during July were down 51% while imports from Canada were up 12%. July live cattle imports totaled 90,731 head, down 30% compared to July 2012.

Crop growing conditions are deteriorating but are still far better than last year. As of September 1, 56% of corn acres were rated in good or excellent condition. That is down 3 points from the week before, but up 34 percentage points from a year ago. On September 1, 34% of pastures were rated poor or very poor. That is up 3 points from the week before, but down from 59 percent poor or very poor a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were lower this week. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $122.42/cwt, down $1.10 from last week, but up 62 cents from the same week last year. Steer prices on a dressed basis averaged $194.22/cwt this week, down $1.79 from a week ago, but up $4.74 from a year ago.

This morning, the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $195.23/cwt, down 45 cents from the previous Friday, but up $4.32 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout is at $181.18/cwt, down $1.30 for the week and down 81 cents from the same day last year. The choice-select spread, $14.05, was up for the seventh consecutive week.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 569,000 head, down 9.3% from last week (due to Monday being Labor Day), but up 3.3% from a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on August 24 was 866 pounds, up 2 pounds from the week before, but down 1 pound from a year ago.

The Oklahoma City auction was closed on Monday due to the Labor Day holiday. Missouri feeder cattle auction prices this week were steady to $3 higher for steers and heifers with prices for medium and large frame #1 steers: 400-450# $180-$220, 450-500# $166-$189, 500-550# $160-$187, 550-600# $157-$178.25, 600-650# $148-$177.25, 650-700# $145-$173, 700-750# $147.50-$172, 750-800# $145-$163.10, 800-900# $135-$152, and 900-1000# $138.75/cwt.

The October live cattle futures contract closed at $125.67/cwt today, down $1.13 from last week's close. December fed cattle settled at $129.02, February at $131.00/cwt.

The September feeder cattle futures contract ended the week at $156.57/cwt, down 35 cents from the previous Friday. October feeders settled at $158.02, down 93 cents for the week.

Source: Ron Plain and Scott Brown