The U.S. cattle herd is smaller than it was a year ago and that trend’s expected to continue through 2021, and though carcass weights have risen in general, that paring down of numbers will contribute to higher fed cattle and backgrounder prices in the coming months, an industry analyst said during the recent annual National Cattlemen’s Beef Association annual meeting. Increasing beef exports and a rise in the percent of the composite beef cutout price represented by fed cattle prices will contribute to improved revenue potential for producers. Feed is a major wildcard heading into spring; a combination of rocketing grain prices and drought-shortened forage crops in the western U.S. could make feed costs a challenge for producers. See more from the industry outlook.