The cattle market closed slightly lower on the day after first posting fresh contract highs earlier in the session. Another sharp rise in corn prices was widely seen as a key factor with lifting cattle prices up to new high ground. Weakness in the US dollar also was seen as providing underlying support as many traders see better export levels ahead due to disease issues in South Korea and slow shipments out of Australia. Higher beef prices this week had some traders expecting higher trades in the cash market. Cash cattle traded $2.00 higher on the week in Kansas at $108.00 and traders indicated that Texas feedlots were holding out for $109.00. Weekly U.S. beef export sales for the week ending January 6th came in at 7,700 metric tonnes, compared with the prior 4-week average of 5,475 tonnes. Cumulative sales for 2011 have reached 85,200 metric tonnes, up 19.5% from last year's pace. Average dressed steer weights for the week ending January 1st came in at 856 pounds, up one pound from the previous week but up 13 pounds from last year and up 17.6 pounds from the 5-year average. Beef production for the same week came in at 446.6 million pounds, up 8.35% over year ago. During the previous five weeks, beef production was up 18.1%, 5.6%, 8.8%, 5.9% and 7.8%. A lack of imports and better than expected exports have been seen as the most likely factors to explain these gains, as higher weights and larger production would normally hold beef prices down. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 128,000 head yesterday. This brings the total for the week so far to 489,000 head, down from 494,000 head last week at this time and down from 506,000 head a year ago. Boxed beef cutout values were up 32 cents at mid-session yesterday and closed 41 cents higher at $169.00. This was up from $166.30 the prior week and is the highest beef market since May 17th of last year.