Cattle prices have hovered near record highs in recent weeks. They dipped yesterday to $119 per hundredweight for February live cattle after going as high as $130 per hundredweight in December. There are a number of factors pushing prices up. Skyrocketing grain prices are one reason. While they've come down a bit in the last year, wheat and corn contracts are still above $6 a bushel. Producers hadn't been making money because grain prices hadn't been high and cattle prices weren't high enough. Another factor is the booming demand for beef overseas. Through September, U.S. beef exports were up 26 percent in volume over the first nine months of 2010, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Experts say they don't expect prices to come down soon. If forecasts projecting more rain in drought-stricken Texas and the South hold up, ranchers are expected to keep more of their cows to replenish their operations, causing one expert to predict the number of females slaughtered will drop by as many as 1 million during the next two years.
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