By Joanna Newman

US cattle are being slaughtered faster than they are being produced said the latest Cattle on Feed report from the US Department of Agriculture.

During December, 1.81 million head of fed cattle left the feedlots for slaughter, up 4% from December 1997 and ahead of market estimates.

During the same period, only 1.50 million head of feeder cattle entered the feedlots, down 4% year-on-year. As a result, the feedlot herd shrank 5% to 10.63 million head as at 1 January.

These figures paint an encouraging picture for the industry, suggesting that the market is becoming more current and the backlog of heavier cattle being cleared at last.

The Chicago February live cattle futures contract for market-ready cattle settled on Tuesday (26 January), at 62.8¢/lb (83p/kg), little changed from a week ago.

The rally in pigs is continuing and helping to support cattle values.

On the international front, there has been mixed news for American producers this week. Cattlemen have won the right to a hearing, scheduled for May, on alleged dumping in the USA by Canadian producers.

Meanwhile the EU is threatening to suspend meat imports from the USA, as the EU list of approved abattoirs expires this month and has not been renewed.

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