Lamb Exports Fall From 2022 Totals

The following report was prepared and written by Jeff Swenson, DATCP’s livestock and meat specialist. 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 fell another $4/cwt last week while the Choice Beef Cutout dropped $6.35 to average 291.43. Cattle prices remain soft coming into this week but are about $12/cwt higher than the first of the year with the cutout $14 higher than a year ago.

The Sterling Profit Tracker estimated cattle feeders saw average losses of $23 per head the week ending Dec. 2 compared to $38 the week before. Feedlot operators pushed for higher bids this week, but early week gains in the cutout were not enough to leverage higher money. The end meats have been the largest challenge for the cutout value with the round and chuck dropping in value.

October beef exports were down 20.5% year-over-year, with a year-to-date total down 14.9% when compared to the January-October period last year. The current wholesale prices are not conducive to increasing exports especially when coupled with a strong U.S. dollar. The three top markets for U.S. beef have all purchased less so far this year. Exports to South Korea are down 17.7% year-to-date with sales to Japan down 21.3%, and China purchases are 18.8% less than last year. The economy in Mexico is strong, with exports there 13.7% higher than in 2022, making it the only major market where sales have increased. Exports last year set records, so it is important to note that sales so far this year are not far off from the 2015-2019 average. Beef export value equated to $389.90 per head in October, down 9% from a year ago.

Last week’s estimated harvest was 635,000 head, unchanged from the previous week and 13,000 less than a year ago

Cattle Prices

Fed cattle prices were steady to weak. High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $166 to $179/cwt with some to $172. Choice steers and heifers ranged from $159 to $166/cwt. with mixed grading and those likely to grade Select bringing $150 to $158/cwt. Holstein steers were lower, bringing $146 to $151/cwt with some lots to $155/cwt. Lower grading steers brought $122 to $146. Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $122/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were bringing $126 to $164/cwt with a few higher.

Cows were sharply lower. A bulk of the cows brought $55 to $80/cwt with some fleshier dairy and beef cows selling into the $90s/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $54/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were mostly steady, bringing $100 to $300/cwt with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $380. Beef and Beef Cross calves were lower, selling up to $670/cwt.


Hog prices were lower last week. The pork cutout value has not seen the large price swings experienced with beef, however. The pork cutout value averaged $86.55 last week, an increase of 21 cents. The cutout was nearly $1 higher Monday of this week, although that was due to bellies being up $10.86, enough to offset the loss seen in all other primals.

Lack of profitability continues in the pork sector. According to the Sterling Profit Tracker, farrow-to-finish hog producers lost $49 per head the week ending December 2, about $7 more than losses the previous week. Producers were $3 in the red the same week a year ago. Large harvest totals continue with last week’s estimate of 2.687 million hogs. That is 8,000 less than the previous week, but 108,000 more than last year.

Packers are maximizing production. Pork packer capacity utilization was estimated at 99.6% compared to 93.4% last year. That compares to an estimated at 83.2%.

October pork exports totaled 245,345 metric tons, up 3% year-over-year and the largest since June. For the first 10 months of 2023, pork exports increased 9% from a year ago. Pork export value equated to $60.21 per head in October, down 6% from last year.


Fed lambs were mostly steady to $3/cwt higher last week, but appeared to soften. The estimated weekly harvest of 38,000 head was 4,000 less than the previous week and 2,000 more than a year ago. The lamb carcass cutout value was nearly unchanged from the previous Friday at $464.67.

October exports of U.S. lamb trended lower, falling 47% from a year ago in volume to 182 metric tons. Through the first 10 months of the year, lamb exports fell 11%, while value declined 12% to $10.7 million. Exports increased to Central America (driven by growth in Costa Rica and Guatemala), Japan, and the Middle East, but these results were offset by lower shipments to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Canada.

Market lambs were mostly lower at $110 to $180/cwt