The clamor for an animal ID system has risen with each new discovery of mad cow disease in the U.S. because tracking sick or infected animals is difficult. In fact, USDA says that the Alabama cow that tested positive last week now has been traced to 13 locations in its life.
A more established system of tracking livestock is USDA's monthly cattle on feed report, the latest version of which was less than friendly to prices.
The March 1 cattle on feed report issued by USDA on Friday showed continued expansion at the nation's feedlots, which are bulging to capacity.
The number of cattle on feed as of March 1 was 108 percent of year-ago levels ... the number of cattle placed in feedlots last month was 105 percent of a year ago ... and the number of cattle marketed in February was just 99 percent of last year.
Analysts calculate the nation's cattle inventory is some 10 percent above the three-year average ... and attribute the increase to the continuing trend of slow-paced marketings and faster placements.
A midweek report from USDA on cold storage inventories also was mostly negative. Frozen beef totals measured 7 percent greater than a year ago ... and frozen poultry supplies jumped 22 percent from last year. Only in pork bellies were the numbers somewhat friendly, with commercial freezers holding a 14 percent smaller inventory compared to last year.