Japanese officials say they are still examining a 475-page USDA report on a faulty veal shipment that prompted Japan to close its markets to U.S. beef last month. Saying the report was insufficient and raised a lot of questions, the Prime Minister of Japan said a quick resumption of imports is unlikely. Elsewhere, U.S. cattle producers braced themselves again this week -- not against Japan, but against the enemy within -- as the Agriculture Department released its monthly Cattle on Feed Report.
While USDA's latest cattle numbers fell short of any kind of a record, they did indicate the fourth consecutive month in which expansion surpassed that of the previous year.
According to USDA, the total number of cattle on-feed -- a nose count of all animals in feedlots with 1000 head or more last month -- was 107 percent of last year, January placements - young cattle just put into feedlots -- were 116 percent, and January marketings -- those animals sold to packers -- were 102 percent of last year.
Some private analysts were predicting the report would reveal greater expansion. With the market already trading on private estimates, cattle prices posted modest gains for the week. However, concerns remain over the expanding herd pushing prices lower this summer.