Futures prices for slaughter-ready cattle are up more than $1/cwt., to push the prices for delivery between February and August above $127/cwt. on the Chicago Board of Trade.

Those cattle prices are up 21% above late-December levels, reflecting tighter supplies of cattle for slaughter from a U.S. cattle herd that is the smallest since 1952.

The Board of Trade noted more favorable economic conditions, which tend to boost beef demand.

USDA’s weekly wholesale meat price report shows a decline in beef slaughter of almost 6% last week from the same week a year earlier. Wholesale prices for various beef cuts were up from a year ago, the report said, as much as 10% for total beef cutout, and 30% for the 50% fat trimmings used for hamburger.

Retail hamburger prices rose by 20% last year and the USDA has warned that another round of price increases are likely this year.

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