The number of cattle in American feedlots in December was the second-lowest on record, government data shows.  Beef output in the United States may slump 5.7 percent next year to the lowest since 1993, USDA has projected.  Cattle futures extended a rally to an all-time high as prices are poised to cap the longest string of annual gains in five decades on signs that animal supplies are shrinking, according to a Bloomberg report.  Futures are on pace for a fifth straight annul gain, the longest winning streak since Chicago trading began in 1964.

Ranchers have struggled to recover from last year’s drought and almost half of Texas, which is the biggest cattle-producing state, is still in drought.  The U.S. herd as of January 1 was the smallest since 1952.

Consumers may pay as much as 3.5 percent more for beef in 2014, USDA said and higher prices will raise costs for retailers as well.  Cattle prices are rising while most agricultural commodities are falling.  Global food prices dropped 4.4 percent in the 12 months through November, while meat climbed 0.3 percent, United Nations data shows.

U.S. farmers had the biggest corn crop ever in 2013, according to government projections, and futures are down 39 percent this year.   The falling price of grain will lower costs for livestock producers, but beef supplies are not expected to climb because it can take three years to raise a calf to slaughter weight.