U.S. beef exports were down 24.9% in September compared to a year earlier with decreases in exports to all of our major foreign customers. September was the 12th consecutive month with beef exports below the year-ago level. U.S. beef imports were up 12.4% during September with more beef being imported from most of our major suppliers.
Beef exports equaled 7.9% of September production and beef imports equaled 13.8% of U.S. production. During the first 9 months of 2015, U.S. beef imports were up 29.5% and beef exports were down 13.3%.
Cattle imports from Mexico were up 27.9% (17,320 head) during September, but imports from Canada were down 35.3% (36,279 head). Total cattle imports were 11.5% lower than in September 2014.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said 271,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy last month, the average hourly earnings increased by 9 cents, and the October unemployment rate declined to 5.0%. That is good news for domestic meat demand.
Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $130.44/cwt, down $6.33 from last week's average and down $36.43 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price this week for steers was $204.74/cwt, down $5.05 for the week and down $56.39 compared to the same week last year.
This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $215.92/cwt, down $3.28 from the previous Friday and down $30.24 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $207.38/cwt down $4.50 from last week and down $31.06 from last year.
The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on October 24 was 927 pounds, down 3 pounds from the week before, but up 25 pounds compared to the same week last year, and above the year-ago level for the 71st consecutive week. This week's average steer dressed weight is 21 pounds heavier than any week prior to September.
Cattle slaughter this week totaled 563,000 head, up 1.8% from the week before, but down 0.9% from the same week last year.
Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were steady to $2 lower this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $244-$258, 450-500# $210.50-$257, 500-550# $214-$231.50, 550-600# $184-$228.50, 600-650# $181-$204.50, 650-700# $181-$207.25, 700-750# $173-$196.50, 750-800# $175-$195.50, 800-900# $168.50-$189 and 900-1000#, $175.25-$183.25/cwt.
Cattle futures were lower this week. The December live cattle futures contract settled at $134.92/cwt today, down $6.81 for the week. February fed cattle settled at $137.15/cwt, down $6.28 from the previous week. November feeder cattle ended the week at $181.62/cwt, down $9.28 from a week earlier. The January contract lost $11.18 this week and closed at $172.02/cwt.