Last year the U.S. exported $6.3 billion of beef and $838 million of beef variety meats. That averages out to $236.50 of exports for each head of U.S. cattle slaughtered in 2014.

USDA's February WASDE report made big changes to the livestock numbers but only small changes to the crop numbers.

Compared to their January forecasts, USDA increased their estimate of 2015 beef production by 1.6%, increased their pork estimate by 0.8%, and upped expected broiler production by 0.8%. They are now predicting 2.5% more turkey in 2015 than in their January forecast. The across-the-board increase in expected meat production means lower prices. They cut their forecast of 2015 slaughter steer prices by $3/cwt, hogs by $6.50/cwt, broilers by 3.5 cents per pound and turkeys by 2 cents per pound. USDA expects slaughter steer prices to average somewhere between $157 and $167/cwt this year. The 2014 average price was $154.56/cwt.

USDA raised their estimate of corn used for ethanol production by 75 million bushels, but lowered their feed and residual estimate by 25 million bushels. They narrowed their price range, but left the midpoint unchanged at $3.65/bu.

Boxed beef prices dropped for the fourth consecutive week. This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $238.09/cwt, down $1.89 from the previous Friday, but up $30.86 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $234.37/cwt this morning, down 47 cents from last week, but up $27.07 from a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were higher this week on light sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $160.54/cwt, up $1.81 from last week's average and up $18.55 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers was $255.15/cwt, up $3.15 for the week and up $32.15 compared to a year ago.

Cattle slaughter this week totaled 537,000 head, down 1.8% from the week before and down 0.6% from the comparable week last year. Cattle slaughter has been below year-ago for the last 50 weeks. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on January 31 was 881 pounds, up 1 pound from the week before and up 7 pounds compared to the same week last year. Steer weights have been above year-ago each week since June 14, 2014.

Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were $1 lower to $5 higher this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $327, 450-500# $287-$315, 500-550# $267-$293, 550-600# $249-$279, 600-650# $218.50-$248, 650-700# $215-$234, 700-750# $209.50-$221, 750-800# $200.25-$211, 800-900# $184-$207, 900-1000#, $181-$187/cwt.

The February live cattle futures contract settled at $160/cwt today, up $3.93 for the week. April fed cattle settled at $153.22/cwt, up $2.20 from the previous Friday. June fed cattle gained $1.77 this week to settle at $146.02/cwt. The March feeder cattle contract ended the week at $203.85/cwt, up $4.40 for the week. April feeders settled at $203.25/cwt.