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Highest US cattle imports from Mexico in January 2020

10 March 2020

US - Last Friday (6 March), USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) released monthly trade data for January 2020. This DLR will focus on livestock trade in 2019 and the month of January 2020, writes Steiner Consulting Group, DLR Division, Inc.

Total live cattle imports for 2019 were just over 2.04 million head, up 7.6 percent from 2018 and the largest amount since 2014 (2.36 million). Of the total cattle imports, 64.6 percent came from Mexico who sent 1.32 million head, which is up 4.1 percent and the highest amount since 2012.

The most recent USDA FAS GAIN report from Mexico (4 February 2020) has their annual cattle exports unofficially estimated at 1.38 million head for 2020, which would be a 4.5 percent increase over 2019. Many of the cattle coming from Mexico are feeder cattle typically destined for stocker operations or feedlots to be finished.

Canada captured the remaining US market share sending 722,809 head, up 14.6 percent from 2018. Canadian imports are usually fed cattle which will be slaughtered. Total cattle imports accounted for about 6.0 percent of total cattle slaughter in 2019.

For the month of January, total cattle imports were 146,927 head, up 3.0 percent from the prior year, with 93,165 head and 53,762 head coming from Mexico and Canada, respectively.

Cattle exports in 2019 totaled 305,157 head, a 25.2 percent increase over 2018 and the highest amount shipped in nearly two decades. Most US cattle exports were shipped to Canada (272,380 head) who captured an 89.3 percent market share. Most of the cattle sent to Canada are feeder cattle destined to be placed in feedlots for finishing.

As discussed in yesterday’s DLR, Canada’s cattle sector has been on a decline for several years. With available feeder cattle supplies in the US, Canadian feedlot operations appear to still be looking south for placement cattle.

In January 2020, cattle exports totaled 31,438 head with 25,470 head going to Canada. The trend of growing cattle exports, especially to Canada, appears to be continuing as we start 2020. Keep in mind that total cattle exports accounted for less than 1 percent of total cattle slaughter in 2019.


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