With the futures market obliterating all records and the beef complex moving higher, the $60,0000 question is how much higher can the market go? What's interesting about this question is that the best market analysts in the business started asking it about $15/cwt. ago. The only certainty is that we are at least a week closer to finding out the answer.

The market was fueled this week by the news of another case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) being discovered in Japan. This time, however, the Holstein bull was only 23 months old. The next youngest of the other seven BSE cases discovered in Japan since the fall 2001 was 64 months of age.

The speculation is that this discovery will likely slow down or stop the opening of the Canadian border to live cattle because it brings into question the well-established, 30-months-of-age-or-younger rule.

Fundamentally, the market remains on very good footing, with showlists being as green and as light as anyone could imagine. With a discount futures market out in front, and with record profits, the incentives are there for cattle feeders to continue to market cattle as quickly as possible. But there is some question about whether the industry has reached the point where it will be nearly impossible to pull cattle ahead.

As a testament to just how strong demand is, and how difficult it has become to find market-ready cattle, there were several pens of cattle traded this week whose delivery is scheduled for the end of October.