Feeder cattle prices have set record highs this December amid the prospect of "tight supplies," USDA says in a report forecasting the shrinkage of the American cowherd to a 40-year low.

The rise in prices comes amid a growing quest for animals by feedlots to cash in on buoyant prices of live cattle – that is, those fattened for slaughter.

Live cattle for February delivery stood just short of $1.06/lb. in Tuesday trade in Chicago, nearing a two-year high for a nearest-but-one contract set two weeks ago.

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