By Joanna Newman

US CATTLE prices have seen a volatile week, with market attention focused on developments in Russia and China.

After several swings, the Chicago April feeder cattle contract settled on Tuesday (13 April) at 72.7¢/lb (99p/kg), down from 73.4¢/lb (100p/kg) a week earlier.

The slaughter market has proved relatively stable, with packers bidding 65-66¢/lb (88.5-90p/kg) for live animals, unchanged from a week ago.

Despite mounting political tension in Russia over the Balkan crisis, the US food-aid programme to Russia is still on track.

An agreement has now been officially signed and US exporters hope that tenders will commence in the near term.

The US Department of Agriculture will ship 120,000t of frozen beef and beef offal or beef trimmings, probably over the next three or four months, depending on the logistics of distribution.

However, news reports this week of contaminated pork and poultry exports to Russia and South Korea early this week caused a knock-on drop in cattle and beef prices.

Meanwhile, this weeks Sino-US trade agreement lifting Chinese import restrictions on US grain and meat is clearly bullish for the US livestock market.

The primary beneficiary is expected to be pork, but the deal has also lent support to cattle prices.

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