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U.S. cattle placements fall six per cent

Marketings are down two per cent

Chicago / Reuters The number of cattle that flowed into feedlots in December fell six per cent, according to the Jan. 20 U.S. government cattle-on-feed data, a decline analysts had expected because of severe drought and high corn prices.

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s placement data came in nearly on target with expectations, it confirms continued placement declines in the coming months which should underpin cash cattle prices and keep beef costs at retail near record highs, said analysts.

The USDA quoted December cattle placements down six per cent from a year ago at 1.683 million head, compared with analysts’ average estimates for a 5.8 per cent decline.

Industry experts attributed the placement shortfall to a year-long drought in the southwest United States that reduced the number of available cattle.

Also, some cited corn prices last month that surged more than seven per cent due to drought conditions in Argentina for the placement shortfall.

“There is no real surprise in the report because everything was pretty close to what was expected,” said Dan Vaught with Vaught Futures Insights.

“One could argue that because the placement number matched expectations, it could be somewhat supportive for futures. But, early-week futures gains suggests the report had already been baked into the market,” he said.

The government also showed a four per cent increase in feedlot cattle supplies from a year earlier, which was nearly in line with a 3.3 per cent gain expected by analysts.

And, USDA said cattle marketings last month were down two per cent compared with a year ago versus estimates for a 2.8 per cent decline.

Man dies of bird flu

Beijing / Reuters A man in southwest China died of bird flu Jan. 22 after three days of intensive care treatment in hospital, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the Ministry of Health as saying.

The 39-year-old — who died in hospital in Guiyan, capital of Guizhou province — began suffering from fever on Jan. 6.

The virus has become active in various parts of the world, mainly in east Asia during the cooler months.

The current strain of H5N1 is highly pathogenic, kills most species of birds and up to 60 per cent of the people it infects.

Since 2003, it has infected 573 people around the world, killing 336.

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