Livestock and dairy producers probably face higher feed costs over the next year after the government’s lower than expected corn plantings and inventory estimates sent corn futures soaring today.

Farmers nationwide planted an estimated 87.872 million acres to corn this spring, down 926,000 acres from a March projection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a report today.

While corn seedings this year are still expected to be up 1.6 percent from 2009 and the third-highest since the end of World War II, supplies may not be as abundant as thought to be earlier this year, analyst said.

The USDA’s acreage figure was about 1.4 million acres below analyst expectations, sending corn futures in Chicago up the daily 30-cent limit at the outset of trading today.

“Corn prices are likely to be higher in six months than they are now,” said Sid Love, an analyst with Kropf & Love Consulting in Overland Park, Kan. The reports “indicate feed costs are likely to go up between now and a year from now.”

In CME Group futures trading today, corn for July delivery rose 29 1/4 cents to $3.54 1/4 a bushel, after falling yesterday to a contract low at $3.24 1/2. December corn rose 29 1/2 cents to $3.73 1/2 a bushel.

The decline in corn plantings compared to March partly reflects excessively wet conditions in the northern Midwest that delayed fieldwork, prompting some farmers to shift land intended for corn over to soybeans, Love said. Soybean prices at historically high levels above $9 a bushel may have also contributed to a shift, Love said.

Farmers planted a record 78.868 million acres to soybeans this year, the USDA said today, up 770,000 acres from a March projection and up 1.417 million acres, or 1.8 percent, from 2009.

The USDA’s quarterly Grain Stocks report, also released today, carried additional surprises for traders and analysts.

Nationwide corn supplies as of June 1 totaled 4.31 billion bushels, the USDA said. While stocks were up 1.2 percent from the same date a year earlier, the figure was 250 million to 300 million bushels below trade expectations, Love said.

“Corn stocks were surprisingly low,” possibly because of greater than expected feed use, Love said.

Corn prices and supplies will hinge largely on Midwest weather the rest of the summer, Love said, and growing conditions have been mostly favorable so far.

Farmers may post record corn yields if favorable weather continues, offsetting lower than expected plantings and supplies, Love said. Last year, corn yields averaged 164.7 bushels an acre, an all-time high.

How high corn prices climb “depends on what yield is,” Love said. “Weather looks like it’s going to be pretty benign rolling into pollination,” the key reproductive phase for corn.

“On balance, conditions indicate we could have a record yield,” at around 165 bushels to 167 bushels per acre, Love said.

Strong yields may boost corn production to a record near 13.4 billion to 13.5 billion bushels, “so we still could have plenty of corn,” Love said. “It’s not a question of running out of corn.”

In early trading, July lean hog futures in Chicago rose 0.35 cent to 79.1 cents a pound. August live cattle rose 0.975 cent to 89.725 cents a pound.