Cattle Outlook: Beef exports up 27% in first 3 quarters of 2011

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The World Trade Organization has determined that the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling rules (COOL) are "inconsistent with the United States' WTO obligations" in part because they afford less favorable treatment to imported Canadian cattle and hogs. I assume this means the COOL regulations will change, eventually.

During September, U.S. beef exports were up 27% compared to a year earlier with every major foreign buyer purchasing more U.S. beef than in September 2010. Shipments to the top four destinations, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and South Korea, were up 8%, 13%, 16% and 20%, respectively. September beef exports equaled 10.6% of U.S. beef production during the month.

Beef imports during September were up 5% from a year earlier. The top three foreign suppliers, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, respectively shipped 13% less, 34% more, and the same amount of beef to the U.S. compared to September 2010. September beef imports were equal to 7.4% of U.S. beef production.

During the first three quarters of 2011 beef exports are up 27% and beef imports are down 14% compared to January-September 2010. Through September, 2011 beef exports have exceeded beef imports by more than 500 million pounds.

Friday morning the choice boxed beef carcass cutout value was $195.55/cwt, up $4.54 from last week and a new record high. The select carcass cutout was up $6.55 from the previous Friday to $178.74 per hundred pounds of carcass weight. The choice-select spread, $16.81, was down $2.01 from a week earlier.

Fed cattle prices this week were down from last week's record. The 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold through Thursday of this week on a live weight basis was $120.78/cwt, down $3.18 from last week. Steers sold on a dressed weight basis averaged $194.94/cwt, $7.98 lower than the week before.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 636,000 head, up 1.8% from the week before, but down 6.6% compared to the same week last year. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending November 5 was 857 pounds, down 2 pounds from the week before and down 1 pound from a year ago.

Cash bids for feeder cattle around the country this week were mostly steady to $5 higher. Prices this week at Oklahoma City were steady to $3 higher with price ranges for medium and large frame #1 steers: 400-450# $170-$190, 450-500# $157-$176, 500-550# $155-$164.50, 550-600# $144-$157, 600-650# $136-$153.75, 650-700# $135-$148.50, 700-750# $143-$147.10, 750-800# $137.50-$148, 800-900# $137-$144.75 and one lot of 900-1000# at $127/cwt.

The December live cattle futures contracted ended the week at $119.70, down 85 cents from the previous Friday. The February contract settled at $121.77/cwt today and the April contract ended the week at $125.77, down $1.03 from last week's close.

Source: Ron Plain, University of Missouri Extension

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