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Cattle herd dwindling; trade slows

09/19/2011 @ 9:25am

Ranchers in the U.S. are shrinking their herds, a move that will curtail beef supplies in coming months and exert upward pressure on prices at the meat counter.

Of particular concern for consumers is the extent of the slaughter. Squeezed by a drought in the Great Plains and high feed costs, ranchers have sold tens of thousands of heifers. Typically, they would hold on to heifers--instead of sending them to feedlots to get fattened--in order to breed a new generation of cattle.

While "cow" is the word generally used to describe these bovines, in industry parlance it specifically refers to a female that has already given birth. Heifers have not.

Cash Cattle Markets Quiet

Cash cattle markets will be quiet following Friday's trading activity at lower prices than a week earlier. Trade last week in Nebraska, Texas and Kansas happened at mostly $1.17/lb live with very few dressed sales reported in Nebraska.

Dealers preparing for an unpredictable week after owners held onto lots of cattle -- leaving them more to sell in later weeks -- and buying interest from meat packers dropped noticeably, in part because their profit margins have shriveled under higher costs and sideways beef prices.


-By Marshall Eckblad, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-303-0544; marshall.eckblad@dowjones.com
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September 19, 2011 10:05 ET (14:05 GMT)

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