Producers have an incentive to increase the weights of their animals as the markets for steers, heifers, and cows have reached record-high prices and feed prices have been moderate. Many producers have exercised options of keeping their cattle on pasture longer, and due to lower grain prices, keeping cattle on feed for longer periods.
Total commercial cow slaughter for 2014 is shaping up at about 14 percent of the January 1, 2014 total cow inventory, somewhat below typical slaughter during an expansionary phase of a cattle cycle. This suggests that cow-calf producers may be having a hard time deciding to retain heifers for breeding, foregoing current income for future income.
U.S. cattle imports were stronger during October than in the same period a year earlier. The forecast for U.S. cattle imports in 2014 was raised to 2.325 million head due to higher feeder cattle imports this year. U.S. beef imports continue to rise, mostly due to higher shipments from Australia, while cumulative-year exports remained slightly above last year's level through October.