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CME: What do Analysts Expect from the Cattle on Feed Report?

18 February 2016

US - February’s Cattle on Feed report will be published by USDA-NASS this Friday, write Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.

Analysts’ pre-report estimates (in the table below) on average expect cattle marketed in January to be at 98.5 per cent, January placements at 99.3 per cent and the February 1st cattle on feed inventory to be 99.8 per cent of year ago numbers.

There is wider range on placement expectations however, between 97.8 per cent and 101.4 per cent of year ago.

Starting with marketings, it is important to note that there was one less slaughter day during January 2016 compared to January 2015.

This will impact our marketing number, usually decreasing it around 5 per cent compared to the previous year.

Looking at the daily average marketing rate which adjusts for difference in slaughter days, using the average prereport estimate for placings, 2016’s daily average marketing rate comes in at 3.4 per cent above 2015’s.

This is good news as we continue to clean up the heavy animals in feedlots and become more current on marketings, especially with the 9 per cent more cattle on feed over 120 days in January’s report compared to 2015.

Moving on to placements, the bigger unknown piece of the puzzle, the majority of analysts expect them to come in below year ago again.

Of course, one less slaughter day will impact this number some too, however to a lesser degree.

Winter weather during January may have impacted the ability to move cattle from the field to the feedlot.

With regards to feeder cattle imports from Canada and Mexico, for the month of January we imported about 50,000 fewer head of feeder cattle compared to 2015.

One of the questions becomes did we supplement the lack of feeder cattle imports with domestic cattle movement into feedlots or not?

According to the January Cattle Inventory report published by USDA-NASS, we have 5 per cent (about 1 million head) more feeder cattle available outside of feedlots this year compared to 2015.

The average pre-report estimate pegs January placements just below year ago levels. Although cattle feeding conditions are improving, per head return estimates still show cattle feeders in the red.

We are in a tough time of year, seasonally the worst time of year for beef demand, to really see a lot of upward movement in terms of prices.

We may not begin to see a year-over-year increase in placements until seasonal beef demand picks up, and fat cattle prices turn up. With more cattle outside of feedlots however, they have to come into the yards at some point.

These marketing and placement estimates put average February 1st on feed numbers at 0.2 per cent below 2015’s. Within the report, we expect the trend to continue of placing more of the heavier weight cattle compared to lighter weight calves.

The February Cattle on Feed report will also contain the number of feedlots, inventory, and annual marketings by size group for 2014 and 2015, along with 2015 monthly cattle on feed estimates for feedlots with 1000+ head capacity.

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