Cattle futures prices declined sharply Tuesday with some contacts plunging the limit for daily trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Analysts tied the retreat to the relatively few number of animals slaughtered in recent weeks and to a government report late Monday on the size of the nation's herds.
"Some people think we haven't killed enough," said Tom Morgan, an analyst in Chicago with Heinold Commodities.
He said the market believes there should be a weekly slaughter of 675,000 head during February, but that only 664,000 were killed last week and that maybe 660,000 will be slaughtered this week.
"They think we're backing up some cattle" that will produce an oversupply when they eventually come to market, he said.
Chuck Levitt, an analyst in Chicago with Shearson Lehman Bros., said the surprise in the report was the relatively few number of very young calves yet to be put on feed lots. What this means, he said, is that there are more older animals that will be coming off the feed lots in the coming months.