Pork Exports Off To A Great Start

The following meat market update was prepared and written by Jeff Swenson, DATCP livestock and meat specialist. The market update draws information from several sources, including trade publications, radio broadcasts, agricultural news services, individuals involved in the industry as well as USDA NASS and AMS reports. Edited by Mid-West Farm Report.


The fed cattle market was higher again last week with very few negotiated sales reported through mid-week. Fed cattle prices are about $20/cwt higher than this time last year. The estimated harvest of 583,000 head last week was 16,000 below the previous week and 40,000 less than a year ago. This week’s production will be lower again.

Wholesale prices will need to increase from current levels for packers to step up harvest pace. It will also depend on the supply of market ready cattle. The beef production forecast for March was raised. Lower-than-expected harvest in the first quarter is expected to be more than offset by higher harvest for outlying quarters. The Choice carcass cutout was $2.72 higher last week, averaging $305.93 and is showing strength this week.

January beef exports totaled 99,764 metric tons, down 1% from a year ago. Export value was up 9% to $763.8 million, as value trended higher year-over-year to South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, and Hong Kong. Beef export value equated to $360.18 per head of fed cattle in January, up 9% from a year ago. Exports accounted for 12.8% of total January beef production, down slightly from a year ago.

Cattle Prices

Fed cattle prices are steady to $1 to $2 higher this week at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets. High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $173 to $180/cwt, with some to $188/cwt and a few higher. Choice steers and heifers ranged from $163 to $172/cwt with mixed grading and those likely to grade Select bringing $153 to $163/cwt. Holstein steers were steady to higher. High grading steers brought to $154 to $164/cwt, with some higher. Lower grading steers brought $126 to $153. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $125/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were steady, bringing $128 to $177/cwt, with a few higher.

Cows were higher. A bulk of the cows brought $86 to $115/cwt with some fleshier dairy and beef cows selling to mid $120s/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $86/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were fully steady, bringing $200 to $400/cwt with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $650. Beef and Beef Cross calves were higher selling up to $850 with a few to $900/cwt


Pork exports are off to a great start in 2024. Pork exports totaled 251,424 metric tons in January, up 6% from a year ago, while export value also increased 6% to $682.1 million. January pork exports to Mexico reached 102,181 metric tons, up 6% from a year ago and the second largest on record, trailing only December 2023. Exports to Korea were up 53% from a year ago, and pork shipments to Japan were the largest since last August. Pork export value equated to $60.00 per head in January, up 4% from a year ago. Exports accounted for 28.3% of total January pork production.

Cash hogs were higher last week with the cutout value steady, averaging $91.80. The weekly harvest estimate of 2.456 million hogs was 93,000 lower than the previous week and 48,000 below the same week last year. This is only the second week this year when harvest has been lower than a year ago, and the other was a week in January hampered by winter weather. The pork production forecast was raised in the January WASDE report based on a more rapid pace of slaughter in the first quarter, partially offset by lower weights. The next Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report will be released on March 28 and will give an indication of hog supply for the second half of the year.


Cash lambs were called $2/cwt higher nationally last week. Light lambs were called steady to $10/cwt higher. The lamb carcass cutout was $471.06 last Friday, making it $4.60 higher than the previous week. Harvest continues at an increased pace with an estimated total of 41,000 last week. That is even with the week before and 6,000 more than a year ago.

January exports of U.S. lamb totaled 303 metric tons, up 28% from a year ago and the largest since March of last year. Export value increased 53% to $1.7 million, the highest monthly value since December 2019. Export growth was led by the Caribbean.