Cattle Futures Climb as U.S. Herd Declines to 61-Year Low

Cattle futures rose for the first time in a week after a government report showed the size of the U.S. herd fell to 61-year low, signaling tightening beef supplies. Hog prices dropped.

Beef and dairy farmers held 89.3 million head of cattle as of Jan. 1, down 1.6 percent from the start of 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a report after the close of regular trading on Feb. 1. That’s the smallest herd since 1952. The most-severe drought since the 1930s reduced livestock-feed supplies and destroyed pastures, spurring ranchers to reduce herds.

“It’s a bullish report from a supply standpoint,” Dennis Smith, an analyst at Archer Financial Services in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “We’re still shrinking.”

Cattle futures for April delivery climbed 0.1 percent to settle at $1.32275 a pound 1 p.m. on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, marking the first gain since Jan. 28.

Feeder-cattle futures for March settlement dropped 0.2 percent to close at $1.48875 a pound.

Hog futures for April settlement fell 0.5 percent to close at 88.35 cents a pound on the CME. Earlier, the price touched 87.675 cents, the lowest for a most-active contract since Jan. 23.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of equities tumbled as much as 1.1 percent, heading for the biggest drop this year. The outside markets are “weighing” on livestock futures, Jason Golly, a vice president of risk-management marketing at Lynch Livestock Inc. in Waucoma, Iowa, said in a telephone interview.

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