American cattlemen are in the midst of a boom market, possibly a once-in-a-lifetime market rally. Fed cattle prices are 15 percent higher than a year ago, and feeder cattle and calves are at least 20 percent higher than last year. All classes of cattle are near record highs, and profits to the cow-calf sector are at levels most ranchers have never seen before.

The driver behind runaway prices for calves, yearlings, fed cattle and cull cows is obvious – supply. Cattle numbers are at their lowest level since Harry Truman was president, and every segment of the industry up the chain from the ranch is scrambling to find cattle to graze, feed, slaughter and process.