Beef Exports Down

The following report was prepared and written by Jeff Swenson, DATCP’s livestock and meat specialist the week of 11/12. This report draws information from several sources, including trade publications, radio broadcasts, agricultural news services, individuals involved in the industry as well as USDA reports.


Fed cattle prices were $4.25/cwt lower last week, with the weighted average for a beef breed steer of $180.81. December Live Cattle contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange managed to end the week $1.85 higher. Many analysts are saying this is a price correction based on the larger than expected feedlot inventory and placement shown in the October Cattle on Feed Report.

Feeder cattle volume has been higher than expected, up 5.6% since Labor Day. October feeder cattle volume was up 2.4%, leading to expectations October placements will be above last year. Volume has dropped below year ago levels in November. Many cow calf producers are marketing their feeders early, and selling most, if not all, their heifer calves to capitalize on the strong feeder cattle market. Feeder prices have come off their earlier highs but remain higher than 2022.

The Choice beef cutout cannot gain traction and fell $4.56 to average $300.15 last week. The estimated harvest last week was 618,000 head, 14,000 less than the previous week and down 52,000 from a year ago.

September beef exports totaled 98,757 metric tons, down 15% from a year ago and the lowest of 2023. For January through September, exports were 13% lower in volume. Beef export value per head was down just 2% from a year ago to $398.73. Exports accounted for 13.4% of total September beef production.

Cattle Prices

Fed cattle prices were lower. High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $168 to $173/cwt with highs of $181/cwt. Choice steers and heifers ranged from $160 to $167/cwt. with mixed grading and those likely to grade Select bringing $150 to $160/cwt. Holstein steers were steady to lower, bringing $150 to $158/cwt with some lots from $158 to $161. Lower grading steers brought $125 to $150. Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $125/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were bringing $126 to $168/cwt.

Cows were steady to $2 lower. A bulk of the cows brought $65 to $93/cwt with some fleshier dairy and beef cows selling to $110/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $65/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were steady, bringing $100 to $300/cwt with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $410. Beef and Beef Cross calves were lower, selling up to $710/cwt.


The lack of profitability in the pork sector remains the main story. Harvest pace continues to run ahead of last year with an estimate last week of 2.576 million hogs making it 95,000 head below the previous week and 75,000 more than the same week last year. The pork cutout value was $1.70 higher, averaging $89.70 last week. Strength in belly prices continued into this week, although hams turned lower.

Corn and soybean yields higher than expected in the U.S., and ample global grain supplies have helped reduce production costs. In a recent National Hog Farmer article, Steve Meyer of Kerns and Associates in Ames, Iowa, noted production costs are lower, but still 40% higher than prior to 2021. Like other proteins in 2021-2022, Meyer writes, “pork benefited from high consumer incomes and those were largely the result of government stimulus payments that are not likely to return.

Pork exports totaled 221,140 metric tons in September, down less than 1% from a year ago, while export value fell 4% to $643.7 million. For the first three quarters of 2023, pork exports increased 9% year-over-year. September pork export value equated to $61.94 per head, down 1% from a year ago, while the year-to-date average was up 5% to $63.16. Export value per head is on a record pace and share of production exported is at the record levels seen in 2020-21. Exports accounted for 28.1% of total September pork production.


Traditional market lambs were steady to $1 higher last week with others up to $35/cwt higher. The cutout value was up as well, posted at $471.44 last Friday, a gain of $10.89. The estimated weekly harvest of 38,000 sheep and lambs was 2,000 head higher than the week before and 1,000 more than a year ago. September exports of U.S. lamb totaled 245 metric tons, down 9% from a year ago.

Exports trended higher to the Caribbean, including increases to Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and the Leeward-Windward Islands, but were lower to Mexico and Canada.

Market lambs were lower from $158 to $182/cwt.