Cattle prices hit another all-time high last week on the Chicago Board of Trade as meatpackers struggle to secure supplies of animals from smaller herds.

Slaughter-ready cattle reached $130/cwt. for April delivery, up 22% from December. Younger feeder cattle hit $158/cwt., 25% more expensive than in mid-2011.

“The packers are short slaughter-ready animals and the feedlot managers currently have the upper hand. Packers are also securing cattle for the March grilling season as the weather throughout much of the country has been mild,” says Jeff French of Top Third Ag Commodities in Chicago.

USDA reported this week that weekly slaughter totals are running almost 6% behind a year ago as packers are faced with declining supplies of animals from herds that are the lowest since 1952.

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