It was announced this week that Caviness Beef Packers has formed a joint venture with J.R. Simplot to build a cow slaughter plant near Kuna, Idaho. Construction on the 1,700 head per day plant is scheduled to begin this spring.

Year-over-year beef imports were up a whopping 55% in November with nearly all major suppliers shipping more beef to the U.S. During the first 11 months of 2014, U.S. beef imports are up 27.7%. U.S. beef exports were down 5.6% in November compared to 12 months earlier with a decline in shipments to Mexico, Hong Kong and Canada, but increases in exports to Japan and South Korea. January-November beef exports were down a slight 0.05%.

Cattle imports from Canada were up 42% in November. Cattle imports from Mexico were up 5.8% compared to November 2013.

Boxed beef prices rose for the third week in a row. This morning the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $256.39/cwt, up $8.39 from the previous Friday and up $41.78 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $247.58/cwt this morning, up $8.61 from last week and up $36.10 from a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were higher this week on heavy sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $169.88/cwt, up $3.95 from last week’s average and up $30.34 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers was $270.62/cwt, up $5.83 for the week and up $49.14 from this week last year. This week’s fed cattle prices are the highest since the last week of November.

Cattle slaughter this week totaled 538,000 head, up 19.0% from New Years week, but down 6.1% from the comparable week last year. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on December 27 was 897 pounds, up 5 pounds from the week before and up 25 pounds compared to the same week last year. Compared to 2013, steer dressed weights averaged 0.6 pounds lighter during the first half of 2014 and 18.3 pounds heavier during the second half of the year.

After two weeks off for the holidays, Oklahoma City feeder cattle prices started 2015 $5-15 higher than their pre-holiday level. This week’s prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $331-$368, 450-500# $311-$343, 500-550# $285-$309.50, 550-600# $279.50-$294.50, 600-650# $240-$278, 650-700# $237-$259.50, 700-750# $232-$241.50, 750-800# $226-$239, 800-900# $214-$230.25, 900-1000#, $218-$222.75/cwt.

The February live cattle futures contract today settled at $160.60, down $5.07 for the week. April fed cattle settled at $159.42/cwt, down $5.15 from the previous Friday. The June contract closed at $150.65/cwt with a loss of $6.40 for the week.

The January feeder cattle contract ended the week at $222.42/cwt, down $1.53 for the week. March feeders closed at $212.55/cwt, down $8.90 compared to last Friday. April feeders ended the week $9.85 lower at $212.47/cwt.