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With just 1.66 million placements in feedlots during December, placements are down only one percent from December of 2011.

Most analysts expected feedlot placements to be higher given to tight forage supplies, a continuing drought, and high prices for feeder cattle.

USDA livestock analyst Shayle Shagam says it’s possible producers are trying not to liquidate; some may have enough forage stored up to get through the winter, and feedlots themselves may be losing money to the point that they can’t afford current market prices.

At the start of January, 11.2 million head were in feedlots, down 6% from a year ago.