Cattle on Feed Report

US - USDA's April cattle on feed report contained no surprises. The total number of cattle on feed at the start of April (11.152 million head) was down 4.6 per cent compared to April 2008 and the same as the average of pre-release trade forecasts.
calendar icon 21 April 2009
clock icon 2 minute read
Ron Plain
Ron Plain

April was the twelfth month in a row with the on-feed number below the year-earlier level. It is also the smallest on-feed number for any April since 2005. Cattle feeding returns have been terrible recently with average closeouts showing losses of more than $100/head for each of the last six months.

USDA said March placements of cattle into large feed yards (over 1,000 head capacity) were 3.8per cent above March 2008. The average of pre-release trade forecasts was for March placements to be up 3.8per cent. This was only the third month with placements above year-ago levels in the last 13 months.

Marketings in March were the lowest for any March since 2003. The trade forecast March marketings to be down 0.8per cent. USDA said marketings of fed cattle from large feed yards during March totaled 1.828 million head, down 0.8per cent compared to March 2008. There was one extra weekday in March this year than last. On a daily basis steer and heifer slaughter in March was down 5.5per cent.

The number of cattle weighting less than 600 pounds that were placed on feed was 10.4per cent lower than last year. Not up since February 2008 has placements of feeder cattle weighing less than 600 pounds been up. The number placed on feed weighing over 600 pounds was up 7.2per cent. As a result, the calculated average weight of cattle placed on feed during March was 1.1per cent heavier than in March 2008.

The number of steers in feedlots on April 1 was down 5.0per cent and the number of heifers was down 3.6per cent. The smaller reduction for heifers implies that cattlemen plan to continue to reduce the cow herd.

The average retail price for choice beef during March was $4.30 per pound. That was down 6.8 cents from February but up 9.5 cents from March 2008. Domestic meat demand in 2008 was weak. Fortunately, export demand has been strong. U.S. beef exports during the first two months of 2009 were up 7.3per cent.

Cattle on Feed, 1000+ Capacity Feedlots, U.S.
  2007 2008 2009 Percent of
  ------- 1,000 head ------- Year Ago
On Feed March 1 11,599 11,853 11,228 94.7per cent
Placed during March 1,960 1,736 1,802 103.8per cent
Marketed during March 1,843 1,842 1,828 99.2per cent
Other Disappearance 72 63 50 79.4per cent
On Feed April 1 11,644 11,684 11,152 95.4per cent

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