U.S. beef imports were down 35.2% in December at 186.2 million pounds. Over half of the decline was in beef imported from Australia. December imports equaled 9.1% of U.S. beef production. For all of 2015, beef imports were up 14.4%.
U.S. beef exports were down 7.6% in December to 196.1 million pounds with most major foreign customers, except South Korea, buying less U.S. beef than they did in December 2014. December exports equaled 9.6% of U.S. beef production. For all of 2015, beef exports were down 11.9%.
December live cattle imports totaled 155,636 head. This was down 43.7% compared to 12 months earlier with 36.4% fewer Mexican cattle imported and 53.8% fewer cattle imported from Canada. The U.S. exported 8,202 cattle during December.
For all of 2015, the U.S. imported 1,984,413 cattle and exported 72,456 head. During 2015, 58.2% of cattle imports came from Mexico and 41.8% of the cattle imports came from Canada. 81% of U.S. cattle exported went to either Canada or Mexico. Last year's U.S. cattle imports were 15.8% fewer than in 2014, and the fewest for any year since 2005.
Fed cattle prices were a bit lower this week in heavy volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $131.70/cwt, down 50 cents from last week's average and down $28.84 from a year ago. Dressed steer prices averaged $205.96/cwt.
This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $216.67/cwt, down $5.83 from the previous Friday and down $21.42 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $213.27/cwt, down $5.18 from last week and down $21.10 from a year ago.
This week's cattle slaughter totaled 544,000 head, up 1.9% from last week and up 0.7% from a year ago.
The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on January 30 was 898 pounds, down 1 pound from the week before, but up 17 pounds from a year ago. This was the 85th consecutive week with steer weights above the year-ago level.
Prices at the Oklahoma City Stockyards this week were $2 to $5 lower on feeder steers and steady to $2 higher on calves than last week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $221-$226, 450-500# $204-$217, 500-550# $192.50-$210, 550-600# $172-$195, 600-650# $164-$178, 650-700# $152.50-$165, 700-750# $146-$161.75, 750-800# $140.50-$153.50, 800-900# $137-$152 and 900-1000# $130-$144.75/cwt.
Cattle futures were sharply lower this week. The February live cattle futures contract settled at $129.95/cwt today, down $6.10 for the week. April fed cattle settled at $129.12/cwt, down $5.28 from the previous week. The June contract ended the week at $119.62/cwt, down $4.43 from the previous Friday.
March feeder cattle ended the week at $150.02/cwt, down $3.80 from a week earlier. April futures lost $3.97 this week to close at $149.50/cwt. May feeder cattle settled at $148.82/cwt.