Total U.S. cattle imports were down 7.4 percent in March compared with one year ago. Monthly imports of cattle from Mexico were down about 1 percent while cattle imports from Canada were down 17 percent year over year. For the first three months of the year, total cattle imports from Mexico are up 24.3 percent while imports from Canada are down 18.5 percent, leading to a combined year-to-date cattle import total up 5.6 percent compared with the same period one year ago. Total annual cattle imports from Mexico and Canada in 2016 were 1.71 million head, down 13.9 percent from the 2015 total, and the lowest total cattle imports since 2004.

Peel derrell
Livestock Marketing Specialist / Oklahoma State University Extension

Annual cattle imports from Mexico decreased 18.3 percent year over year in 2016 to a total of 943,043 head. However, monthly cattle imports from Mexico increased year over year from last November until the slight decrease in the latest March data. Stronger U.S. cattle markets and the sharp devaluation of the Mexican peso following the election both contributed to the increases from November through February.

For the three-month year-to-date total, steer imports from Mexico are up 17 percent year over year. Most of the increase is in lighter-weight steers (under 450 pounds). This may indicate that steers are being exported earlier rather than waiting until weights are heavier later in the year. Imports of spayed heifers from Mexico are nearly double, up 98.1 percent, from the same period one year ago. For the year-to-date, heifers account for 14.9 percent of total Mexican cattle imported compared with 9.4 percent one year ago. Last year's heifer export rate was lower than is typical and suggested more heifer retention and herd rebuilding. However, the current rate may indicate that heifer retention in Mexico is slowing.

Despite increased imports of Mexican cattle in January and February, the data suggest that exports were somewhat front-loaded early in the year and will not continue to increase year over year. March imports were about equal to last year and preliminary weekly data for April indicates a significant year-over-year decrease in imports of Mexican cattle.

Cattle imports from Canada totaled 764,970 head in 2016, down 7.8 percent from 2015. Cattle imports from Canada include feeder steers and heifers, slaughter steers and heifers, and slaughter cows and bulls. In 2017, year-to-date total slaughter cattle imports from Canada are down 15 percent, including a 40.9 percent decrease in slaughter cows and a 14.9 percent decrease in slaughter heifers year over year. Slaughter steer imports from Canada are up 18.6 percent from last year while slaughter bull imports are up fractionally.


Total slaughter cattle imports from Canada include 69.2 percent slaughter steers and heifers and 30.2 percent slaughter cows and bulls. Total feeder cattle imports from Canada include steers, down 56.8 percent from last year, and heifers, unchanged from one year ago. Feeder heifers account for 73.7 percent of total feeder cattle imports from Canada so far this year, with steers counting for less than one-quarter of feeder cattle imports. In 2016, feeder heifers accounted for 61.1 percent of total feeder cattle imports from Canada.

Total cattle imports from Canada so far this year consists of 27 percent feeder cattle, 48.8 percent slaughter steers and heifers, and 21.8 percent slaughter cows and bulls, plus 2.4 percent of beef and dairy breeding animals.  end mark

Derrell S. Peel is an Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist. This originally appeared in the May 8, 2017, OSU Cow/Calf Corner newsletter.