The feedlot herd totaled 11.2 million as of May 1, up 7.4% from a year ago.
Feedlots increased purchases of young cattle by 10% in April as a persistent drought in the southern Great Plains prompted ranchers to sell animals.
Feedlots bought 1.795 million head of cattle last month, up from 1.6 million in April 2010, the USDA reports. The feedlot herd totaled 11.2 million as of May 1, up 7.4% from a year ago.
More than 60% of the Southern Plains, including western Oklahoma, is experiencing "severe" drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The dryness has scorched pastures. Expanding feedlot herds have led to a 12% drop in cattle futures from a record of $1.2/lb. on April 4, and wholesale-beef prices fell 8.8% since April 5.
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