Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. feedlots unexpectedly increased the number of cattle purchased in December compared with a year earlier, a government report showed.
Feedlots placed 1.681 million head of cattle last month, 1 percent more than the 1.664 million bought in December 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a report. Thirteen analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News said that placements would decline 2.3 percent, based on the average estimate.
The feedlot herd totaled 10.6 million as of Jan. 1, down 5.4 percent from a year earlier. Analysts forecast a 6.2 percent drop.
Feedlot operators typically buy year-old animals that weigh 500 pounds (227 kilograms) to 800 pounds, called feeders. The cattle are fattened on corn for about four to five months until they weigh about 1,300 pounds, when they are sold to meatpackers.
Feedlots sold 1.736 million animals to meatpackers last month, down 0.5 percent from a year earlier, the USDA said. Analysts projected a 2.3 percent increase, on average. Last month had one more weekday than December 2012.