The Canadian Beef Export Federation says Canada could be sending beef products to Japan as early as December. That depends, of course, on the smooth implementation of new import rules by the Japanese. No Canadian beef has been shipped to Japan since May of 2003, when a dairy cow in Alberta province tested positive for mad cow disease.
The U.S. cattle industry, meanwhile, continues to simmer while the Japanese waffle on whether to reopen their market to American beef. Fortunately, domestic demand has sustained U.S. cattle producers in the interim. And that makes USDA's monthly cattle on feed data tracking interior movement of cattle critical to pricing strategies.
The seasonal movement of cattle to feedlots got off to a slow start with smaller summer placements. But the USDA numbers released late Friday afternoon were disappointing to traders who were expecting placement numbers to be even smaller.
Here's how the inventory looked as of October 1: The number of Cattle On Feed was at 100% of year ago levels. The trade had predicted the first year-over-year drop in feedlot numbers in nearly a year and a half.
The September placement total of 99% was higher than expected. Analysts had projected the smallest early fall placement levels since 2002.
In addition, September marketings of 101% were not quite as high as expected.
The numbers compound a beef supply already burdened by record carcass weights, a greater number of fed cattle imports from Canada, and an increasing level of imports of beef products.