Ron Plain: International trade big reason for soaring 2011 cattle prices

U.S. cattle prices hit record highs in 2011 and a good portion of the credit goes to international trade, University of Missouri Extension Specialist Ron Plain said in a new report. The U.S. exported more beef in the first 11 months of 2011 than in any previous calendar year, and through November, 10.6 percent of U.S. beef production was exported.

The three biggest growth markets for U.S. beef exports are Canada (up 106 million pounds compared to January-November 2010); Japan (up 99 million pounds) and South Korea (up 97 million pounds).

U.S. beef imports during the first 11 months of 2011 were down 11.9 percent compared to a year earlier. Shipments from Canada were down 21.2 percent, imports from Australia down 23.1 percent and Brazil down 40.0 percent. Through November, beef imports equaled 7.9 percent of U.S. beef production.

Cattle imports during November were down 7.7 percent compared to 12 months earlier. During the first 11 months of 2011, cattle imports were down 10.3 percent with cattle from Canada down 36.3 percent, but imports from Mexico were up 14.2 percent.

When the totals for 2011 are in, imports of cattle are likely to be close to 2 million head, down 10 percent from 2010 and the lowest since 2005.