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Cattle Exports to Mexico Surge

By David P. Anderson
Imports of feeder cattle from Mexico usually are reported with interest because ranchers and feeders in the U.S. import more than 1 million head per year, on average. The U.S. also exports cattle to Mexico, but in much smaller numbers. In recent weeks cattle exports have surged to the highest levels in several years.
Weekly cattle exports to Mexico are reported for three categories: slaughter cattle, breeding males, and breeding females. Exports of bulls and cows for breeding have averaged about 45 head per week this year. That is just a touch slower than last year’s 49 head per week.
The interesting changes are in slaughter cattle shipments. After exporting 0 head this year, 240 were shipped the week ending July 11th. That has increased to 1,271 head for the week ending September 5th. Only 329 slaughter cattle were shipped to Mexico in all of 2019. It’s also the largest weekly exports since December, 2002. The last consistent exports occurred in early 2018.
Several trends suggest the opportunity for exports to continue. The growth in Mexico’s cattle packing industry indicates that there is some packing capacity available. Continued evolution in U.S. beef production rewarding USDA quality grade and some grids excluding breeds suggests an opportunity to export Brahma fed cattle. Prices and exchange rates will play a role as well.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s significant weekly shipments occurred. Weekly shipments ranged from about 1,000 head to 3,500 head. Slaughter cattle exports had declined substantially well before late December 2003 when the Canadian cow in Washington was found with BSE. High U.S. fed cattle prices in 2003 likely depressed exports to Mexico (fed cattle prices set a record high in the fourth quarter of 2003 that was not surpassed until 2010).
In the big scheme of things these are not large numbers. But, the opportunity to export some slaughter cattle is likely an important outlet for some South Texas feeders.
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