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Cattle on Feed - No Major Surprises

23 January 2012
Ron Plain
Ron Plain

US - USDA said December placements of cattle into large feed yards (over 1,000 head capacity) were 5.9 per cent lower than in December 2010. The average of pre-release trade forecasts was for December placements to be down 5.8 per cent. For all of 2011, placements were 2.0 per cent larger than in 2010, writes Ron Plain, University of Missouri.

USDA said marketings of fed cattle from large feed yards during December totaled 1.796 million head, down 1.9 per cent compared to December 2010. The trade forecast December marketings to be down 3.0 per cent. Steer and heifer slaughter during December was down 7.7 per cent. In recent months, marketings from large feedlots have been high relative to steer and heifer slaughter. For all of 2011, fed marketings were up 2.4 per cent, but steer and heifer slaughter was down 1.4 per cent. Why the difference? Presumably a larger share of the cattle on feed is in the large feedlots included in these monthly surveys.

The total number of cattle on feed at the start of January was up 3.0 per cent compared to January 2011. The pre-release survey of forecasts predicted an increase of 3.3 per cent. The number of cattle on feed has been above the year-earlier level for each of the last 20 months. The January inventory is the highest on-feed number for any January since 2008.

The number of cattle placed on feed weighing less than 600 pounds was up 19.3 per cent from the previous December. Placements of feeders weighing 600 to 700 pounds were down 3.1 per cent; placements weighing 700 to 800 pounds were down 4.9 per cent, and placements weighing more than 800 pounds were down 2.4 per cent compared to a year earlier. The calculated average weight of cattle placed on feed during December was 0.9 per cent lower than in December 2010.

The number of steers on feed was up 1.4 per cent at the start of 2012. Heifers on feed were up 5.6 per cent. Heifers made up 37.9 per cent of the cattle on feed January 1, the highest of any January since 2004.

The average retail price for choice beef during December, $5.016 per pound, was up 1.5 cents from November, up 57.8 cents from December 2010, and record high for the fifth month in a row. Slaughter steer prices averaged $121/cwt in December, the second highest month ever.

Further Reading

- Go to our market report on this story by clicking here.

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