Cattle On Feed

US - USDA's June cattle on feed report found a few more cattle in feedlots than the trade was expecting, writes Ron Plain & Glenn Grimes
calendar icon 26 June 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

The total number of cattle on feed at the beginning of June (11.272 million head) was 0.8% larger than last year. The trade forecast was for inventories to be up 0.1%. The current on-feed inventory is the largest for any June since USDA started this particular data series in 1996.

This latest inventory report said May placements of cattle into large feed yards (over 1,000 head capacity) were 13.5% higher than an extremely low year-ago number. Still, placements were the second lowest for any May since 1999. The average of trade forecasts was for placements to be up 10.3%.

One reason for higher placements is a backlog of feeder cattle ready to go on feed. The number of cattle placed on feed during the 8 months September-April 2007 was down 8.2% (1.178 million head) compared to the same months one year earlier. Low placement numbers during the spring imply summer marketings will be below year-earlier levels.

High corn prices in late 2006 and 2007 held down the number of cattle put on feed, especially light weight cattle. The number of cattle weighing less than 600 pounds placed on feed during May was down 4.5%. May was the eighth consecutive month that placement of this weight category has been below year-ago levels. The calculated average weight of cattle placed on feed during May was 1.7% heavier than May 2006.

Fed cattle marketings during May were lower than expected. USDA said marketings of fed cattle from large feed yards during May totaled 2.085 million head, down 3.5% from May 2006. May marketings were lower than both the consensus of pre-release trade estimates (down 1.9%) and May steer and heifer slaughter, which was down 2.2% compared to last year. Slaughter weights imply that feedlots are keeping current in their marketings.

The average retail price for choice beef during May was $4.297/pound. That was up 1.2 cents from April, and up 34.6 cents from May 2006. The price outlook for fed cattle continues to be outstanding with a good chance 2007 slaughter steer prices will average above $90/cwt for the first time ever.

Cattle On Feed, 1000+ Capacity Feedlots, U.S.

Percent of Year Ago
---- - 1,000 head -----
On Feed May 1
10,641 11,559 11,297 97.7%
Placed during May
2,223 1,903 2,159 113.5%
Marketed during May
1,997 2,160 2,085 96.5%
Other Disappearance
96 115 99 86.1%
On Feed June 1
10,771 11,187 11,272 100.8%

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