U.S. cattle imports for 2012 are forecast at 2.175 million head. Weekly reports from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) show cattle imports from Mexico through September at a level 19 percent higher than that of a year ago. However, imports in mid-July 2012 were over 32 percent higher than in the same period in 2011, and this import share has since declined in each consecutive week. The magnitude in the fall runup of cattle imports from Mexico will have the greatest bearing on the yearly import level shakeout. A movement toward lighter weights of imported animals may suggest the extent to which exportable Mexican cattle inventories have been depleted after higher consecutive yearly U.S. import levels since 2008 (through August, annual imports of cattle from Mexico less than 400 pounds were up 21 percent from last year).
According to AMS weekly reports, U.S. imports of Canadian cattle are 3 percent higher through mid-September, year-over-year. Feeder cattle account for most of the increase in U.S. imports from Canada in 2012 (+64 percent through mid-September). Slaughter cow imports are moderately higher (+7 percent), but steer and heifer imports are 13 percent below year-ago levels. Total U.S. cattle imports for 2013 are forecast at 2 million head, or 8 percent lower year-over-year, as North American cattle inventories are expected to be further reduced.