Recent rains in the Southern Plains haven’t cured the region’s drought, but could push feeder-cattle and cow prices even higher. Retail pork prices meanwhile are headed toward $4 per pound and dairy prices also are high, according to the USDA’s June Livestock Dairy and Poultry Outlook report.

Record-high feeder-cattle prices are challenging feedyard margins in spite of declining costs for corn and other feeds and a strong fed-cattle market. The average retail price for beef in May reached $5.91 per pound, a 13 percent increase from a year earlier.

Other key points in the report include:

  • U.S. cattle imports through April were up 5 percent for the year with an increase in imports from Canada offsetting lower shipments from Mexico.
  • Beef exports rose during the first four months of the year but are likely to decline 3 percent in 2014 due to lower U.S. production.
  • Imports of beef during April 2014 were 17 percent higher than last April due to growth in shipments from Australia and Canada.
  • Losses due to Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PEDv) have driven higher pork prices and increased imports, while April pork exports also were up almost 10 percent from a year ago.
  • U.S. cattle imports through April 2014 totaled 847,000 head, 5 percent higher than a year earlier. Imports from Canada are up by 12 percent.
  • Over the past 12 months, the Canadian dollar steadily depreciated against the U.S. dollar and has averaged 10 percent lower throughout most of 2014, helping encourage imports of Canadian feeder cattle.
  • For the year though April. feeder cattle imports were up 33 percent, while imports of slaughter Cattle were down 3 percent from last year.
  • U.S. beef exports were up 7 percent year-over-year through April, led by higher shipments to Japan, Mexico, and Hong Kong.Total U.S. exports are likely to fall 3 percent in 2014 due to lower U.S. beef production and higher prices.
  • Retail pork prices averaged $3.95 per pound in May, almost 13 percent higher than a year earlier, and prices are likely to top $4 per pound during the second half of the year.
  • The report projects corn prices for the remaining 2013-2014 crop year at $4.45 to $4.65 per Bushel, with lower prices in the range of $3.85 to $4.55 per bushel for the 2014-2015 crop.
  • The all milk price is projected at $22.90 to $23.30 per hundredweight for 2014 and $19.75 to $20.75 for 2015.
  • The milk-feed price ratio is likely to remain at a level that would support expansion in the dairy herd in 2015, and USDA projects s moderate increase in cow numbers in 2015.

Read the full Livestock Dairy and Poultry Outlook report from USDA.