Ron Plain: Cattle on Feed

US - USDA's March cattle on feed report said placements were lower and marketings higher than the pre-release trade forecasts. That combination of errors meant that the number of cattle on feed April 1 was exactly what the trade forecast, writes Ron Plain, University of Missouri.
calendar icon 24 April 2012
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Ron Plain
Ron Plain

The number of cattle on feed in large feedlots at the start of April was up 2.0% compared to April 2011, the same as the average of pre-release forecasts. The number of cattle on feed has been above the year-earlier level for each of the last 23 months. The April inventory is the highest on-feed number for any April since 2008.

USDA said March placements of cattle into large feed yards (over 1,000 head capacity) were 6.4% lower than in March 2011. The average of pre-release trade forecasts was for March placements to be down 7.7%.

USDA said marketings of fed cattle from large feed yards during March totaled 1.918 million head, down 3.6% compared to March 2011. The trade forecast March marketings to be down 5.5%.

Steer and heifer slaughter during March was down 7.4%. These monthly surveys only cover feedlots with a capacity of a thousand head or more. These large feedlots are gaining market share while smaller feed yards are losing share. Consequently, the monthly cattle on feed data do not represent well what is happening to total cattle feeding.

The number of cattle placed on feed weighing less than 600 pounds was up 2.6% from the previous March. Placements of feeders weighing 600 to 700 pounds were down 16.7%; placements weighing 700 to 800 pounds were down 15.1%, and placements weighing more than 800 pounds were up 2.9% compared to a year earlier. The calculated average weight of cattle placed on feed during March was 0.3% higher than in March 2011.

The number of steers on feed at the start of April was 7.174 million, up 0.8% from 12 months earlier. The number of heifers in large feed yards was 4.254 million, up 4.0% year-over-year. The heifer share of feedlot animals was 37.0%, up from 36.3% a year ago.

The average retail price for choice beef during March, $5.053 per pound, was up 0.8 cents from February, up 30.6 cents from March 2011, and the second highest month ever. Slaughter steer prices averaged $126.80/cwt in March, a record.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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