The latest United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Livestock, Poultry and Dairy Outlook reported that dry conditions are spreading to the north and west and expanding in south-eastern US, causing concerns among some crop and livestock producers and increasing the turn-off of lighter cattle.
Meanwhile, drought-induced feeder cattle exports from Mexico are entering the US at a faster rate than last year.
Although remaining well below year ago levels, weekly estimates of federally inspected beef cow slaughter have increased from mid-April lows.
Also reflective of the deterioration in pasture and hay conditions, cow prices have begun to slip, alongside increased supplies as a result of post calving-season culling.
Poor conditions are also expected to force additional calves to be turned off early.
The projected number for US milk cows was raised to 9.235 million head for 2012 and is expected to ease 1% to 9.17 million head for 2013.
While some dairy herd liquidation is expected, helping offset the fall in beef cow slaughter, the lower feed cost is expected to moderate the decline in dairy herd size this year.
US beef exports during April declined 11% year-on-year, as a tighter beef supply was behind the fall in shipments.
US beef exports for 2012 are forecast to fall 6% to 1.190 million tonnes cwt, before increasing 1% in 2013 to 1.202 million tonnes cwt.
Meanwhile, US beef imports during April increased 22% on year ago levels, driven by a 74% jump in imports from Australia and moderate growth of 3% and 9%, respectively, from New Zealand and Canada.
Although small, beef imports from Mexico and Uruguay surged 37% and 43%, respectively, during the same period.
US beef imports for 2012 are forecast at 2.437 billion pounds (1.105 million tonnes cwt) and are expected to be 8% higher in 2013 at 2.62 billion pounds (1.188 million tonnes cwt).
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