U.S. beef exports were down 3.6% in April. It was the seventh consecutive month with exports lower than last year. The biggest declines were in shipments to Mexico, Hong Kong and to Canada. U.S. beef imports were up 27.5% in April with most of the increase coming from Australia and New Zealand. This was the 14th consecutive month with imports above the year-earlier level. At 345 million pounds, April beef imports were the highest of any month since July 2005. During April, 10.35% of U.S. beef production was exported. Imports equaled 17.94% of U.S. beef production which is the highest share since April 2005. High U.S. beef prices and a strong dollar are the two main causes of the disappointing trade numbers.

Cattle imports during April were down 16.4% from a year ago with imports from Mexico down 3.8% and imports from Canada down 24.6%.

Domestic beef demand was up 5.1% in April. That was the 15th consecutive month with domestic demand above the year-ago level. Export demand was up 1.8% in April.

Fed cattle prices this week were lower on light volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $157.28/cwt, down $1.21 from last week's average, but up $12.15 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price this week for steers was $247.87/cwt, down $1.84 for the week, but up $16.03 compared to the same week last year.

This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $245.17/cwt, down $9.94 from the previous Friday, but up $15.23 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $238.83/cwt this morning, down $4.74 from last week but up $17.67 from a year ago.

Cattle slaughter this week totaled 550,000 head, up 4.8% from the week before, but down 10.7% from the same week last year. Year-to-date cattle slaughter is down 7.1% and beef production is down 4.8%.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on May 23 was 864 pounds, down 3 pounds from the week before, but up 21 pounds compared to the same week last year. Steer weights were up for the 49th consecutive week.

Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were mostly steady to $5 higher this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $307-$321, 450-500# $288-$298, 500-550# $272-$291, 550-600# $255-$275, 600-650# $241-$255, 650-700# $241-$250, 700-750# $229-$236.50, 750-800# $225.25-$229, 800-900# $206.25-$220.50, and 900-1000#, $189.50-$207.50/cwt.

Cattle futures were mixed this week. The June live cattle futures contract settled at $152.82/cwt today, up 50 cents for the week. August fed cattle settled at $150.57/cwt, down 75 cents from the previous week. October fed cattle lost 55 cents this week to settle at $152.37/cwt. The August feeder cattle contract ended the week at $221.90/cwt, down $1.05 for the week.