U.S. Cattle Herd Grows for Fourth Straight Year

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The U.S. cattle herd swelled for a fourth straight year, the government said on Wednesday. Still, the expansion was smaller than expected.

Domestic farms had 94.4 million cattle at the start of the year, up 0.7 percent from 2017, according to the Department of Agriculture. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had expected an increase of 1.3 percent, on average. Texas maintained its lead as the top U.S. cattle state, followed by Nebraska and Kansas. Ample feed-grain supplies and improved pasture conditions have spurred ranchers to grow cattle numbers from a six-decade low set in 2014.

The rebound has subdued meat costs. The USDA expects beef prices to rise about 2 percent this year, in line with overall food inflation. Retail ground beef has dropped about 13 percent from a record in 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show.

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