The combination of drought and heat in the Southwest accelerated what was already a tight supply of cattle in the U.S. last year, dropping the total herd to 90.8 million animals, the lowest total since 1952, according to USDA.

The latest number means a continuation of a trend that caused supermarket beef prices to rise by 11.5% last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Consumers most likely will continue to see high beef prices through the summer grilling season, says Kevin Penner, cattle trader at Ag Trader Talk in Des Moines. “The report was about what the trade expected,” he said.

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