U.S. beef exports during December were up 15.9% compared to 12 months earlier. Mexico and Japan were responsible for the increase.

December beef imports were up 2.2% from a year earlier with most of the extra beef coming from Canada.

December exports equaled 11.14% of U.S. beef production. December imports equaled 8.12% of production.

For all of 2013, the U.S. exported 2.58 billion pounds of beef. That was up 5.3% from the year before and was the second most after 2012. Japan, Hong Kong, and Mexico were the top growth markets. The value of beef exports in 2013 totaled $5.4 billion. U.S. beef imports in 2013 totaled 2.25 billion pounds, up 1.4% from 2012 and the most since 2010.

Cattle imports were up 38.3% in December with cattle from Mexico up 13.8% and cattle imports from Canada up 86.8%. Live cattle imports in 2013 totaled 2,027,990 head, down 11.2% compared to 2012 and the fewest since 2009.

Fed cattle prices have come down fast the last two weeks after skyrocketing in early January. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $140.56/cwt, down $5.24 from a week ago, but up $14.04 from a year ago. Steer sales on a dressed basis averaged $225.35/cwt this week, up $26.94 from a year ago.

This morning, the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $212.25/cwt, down $15.72 from the previous Friday, but up $29.98 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout is $209.96/cwt, down $18.62 for the week, but up $29.89 from last year.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 561,000 head, down 0.9% from last week and down 5.2% from the corresponding week last year.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on January 25 was 873 pounds, up 3 pounds from the week before and unchanged from a year earlier.

Feeder cattle prices at this week's Oklahoma City auction were steady with light volume due to a winter storm. This week's prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight were: 400-450# $215, 450-500# $208, 500-550# $203, 550-600# $190-$201.25, 600-650# $175-$189, 650-700# $170.50-$177, 700-750# $166.50-$170.25, 750-800# $160-$165, 800-900# $157-$164, and 900-1000# $153-$157/cwt.

The February live cattle futures contract closed at $141.20/cwt today, down 47 cents from last week's close. April fed cattle settled at $140.40, down 2 cents for the week. June settled at $132.10/cwt, up 60 cents.

The March feeder cattle futures contract ended the week at $167.80/cwt, down $1.62 for the week. May feeders closed at $169.20/cwt.

Source: Ron Plain and Scott Brown