Purdue University ag economist Chris Hurt predicts U.S. beef cow numbers will be two to three percent lower in the January cattle inventory report.
Hurt says the drought has been particularly cruel to the beef cattle industry. Poor pastures combined with high feed prices have caused many producers to reduce their herds.
One ray of hope, according to Hurt, is that those producers who are able to endure the hard times could see cattle prices rise for the remainder of this year and into 2013.
Hurt expects live steer prices to be near 125 dollars for the final quarter of this year and 130 dollars in the first quarter of 2013. He sees spring prices peaking in the high-130s, with second- quarter prices averaging in the mid-130s.
Hurt adds that a more abundant feed supply in the second half of 2013 could result in a robust price recovery for calf and feeder cattle prices. And he says replenished feed supplies would begin U.S. beef herd expansion in late 2013.