By Joanna Newman

CATTLE prices have continued on the slide that started lasted month, and traders are cautious.

The Chicago December live cattle futures contract settled on Wednesday (11 November) at 63.72¢/lb, down from 64.6¢ just over a week ago. Cheap pork is partly to blame.

With pig prices at 30-year lows and still falling, this is putting pressure on beef. Packers are unwilling to bid above 62¢/lb for live cattle, against offers of 64-65¢/lb and slaughter activity has slowed.

This compares with 63¢/lb paid by the packing houses last week.

Winter snowstorms are reported to be injuring cattle, but not enough to turn prices round. Producers are hoping that the monthly Cattle on Feed report, to be released this week, will show that the oversupplied industry is reducing.

Fewer store cattle are entering the feedlots for fattening. This, combined with lighter weights across the board and a higher slaughter rate could spell good news for cattle producers.

Current market prices are still well below break-even for most cattlemen. However, some analysts believe that the industry is now bottoming out and prices could soon start to show some improvement.

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