April cattle closed sharply higher on the session yesterday, and closed above the 115.00 level for the first time in the history of the contract. June closed close to a new contract high, and built upon those gains overnight with support from the hog market along with ideas that South Korea will be a more aggressive importer. Early weakness from the hog market was offset by solid gains in other commodity markets along with a lower value for the US dollar. Many traders in the cattle market are trying to look past short-term weakness in the beef market and are assuming that beef prices will recover after their period of sluggish demand. Cash cattle traded at $107.00 last week, and bids emerged this week at $106.00 with offers at $109.00-$110.00. Expectations for an improving US economy along with ideas that exports will remain strong were seen as supporting the market early in the session. Weekly U.S. beef export sales for the week ending February 10th came in at 15,100 metric tonnes, compared with the prior 4-week average of 9,900 tonnes. Cumulative sales for 2011 have reached 165,900 metric tonnes, up 30.6% from last year's pace. Some traders see higher cash cattle trading this week, but a large premium of futures to the cash market may be seen as a limiting factor. Stats Canada indicated that the January cattle herd in Canada is at the lowest level for 16 years at 12.5 million head, down 3.4% from last year. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 130,000 head yesterday. This brings the total for the week so far to 514,000 head, up from 497,000 head last week at this time and up from 483,000 head a year ago. Boxed beef cutout values were down 28 cents at mid-session yesterday and closed $1.23 lower at $167.22. This was down from $169.00 the prior week, and is the lowest beef market since January 10th. Average dressed steer weights for the week ending February 5th came in at 845 pounds, down from 846 pounds the previous week but still up from 833 pounds last year at this time. Beef production for the same week came in at 487.2 million pounds, down 1.75% over year ago. Traders see the USDA on-feed supply on February 1st near 5% above last year for the USDA report this afternoon with January placements thought to be 3% to 5% higher while January marketings are about unchanged from last year.