As the expansion phase of the beef cycle sets in, and the volatility of the big-money futures markets exert their pressure, the past month was hard on the beef complex.

For perspective, on Nov. 20 the choice boxed beef cutout value was $204.77 per hundredweight, down $50.88 from a year ago. The 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $123.00 per hundredweight, down $46.00 from a year earlier. The 5-area average dressed price was $194.50 per hundredweight, down $70.50 compared with the same week in 2014.

The latest beef wholesale prices are drifting closer to the average of 2010-2014.

As the markets try to sort out these new directions, the dollar remains strong and inputs are staying in the expected ranges. Also, Rabobank economists recently said they expect corn production and pricing to remain in this range for some time, perhaps several years, barring droughts or other catastrophes.