Cattle on Feed: Numbers 5.6 per cent Lower on Last Year

US - USDA’s January cattle on feed report had some bullish numbers for the U.S. cattle industry, writes Ron Plain, University of Missouri.
calendar icon 28 January 2013
clock icon 2 minute read
Ron Plain
Ron Plain

USDA said the number of cattle on feed in large feedlots at the start of January was down 5.6% per cent compared to January 2012. The trade predicted down 4.4 per cent.

The low on-feed number was due to smaller-than-expected placements and larger-than-expected marketings during December. This is the fifth consecutive month the number of cattle on feed has been below year-ago.

The January on-feed number is the lowest for any January since 2010.

USDA said December placements of cattle into large feed yards (over 1,000 head capacity) were 0.5 per cent lower than in December 2011. The average of pre-release trade forecasts was for December placements to be up 4.1 per cent.

December placements were the smallest for any December since 2009. The decline in placements can be attributed to high feed costs and large losses on cattle closeouts.

USDA said marketings of fed cattle from large feed yards during December totaled 1.745 million head. That is down 1.7 per cent compared to December 2011. The trade predicted December marketings would be down 6.8 per cent.

Steer and heifer slaughter during December was down 7.7 per cent. The spread between fed cattle marketings (down 1.7 per cent) and steer and heifer slaughter (down 7.7 per cent) was the greatest for any month since July 2011.

The number of cattle placed on feed weighing less than 600 pounds was down 10.0 per cent from the previous December.

Placements of feeders weighing 600 to 700 pounds were up 7. per cent per cent; placements weighing 700 to 800 pounds were up 5.3 per cent, and placements weighing more than 800 pounds were down 0.8 per cent compared to a year earlier.

The calculated average weight of cattle placed on feed during December was 0.6 per cent heavier than in December 2011.

The number of steers in large feedlots on January 1 was down 3.2 per cent that are heifers is the lowest for any January since 2008.

The average retail price for choice beef during December, $5.118 per pound, was down 3.4 cents from November but up 10.2 cents from December 2011. Slaughter steer prices averaged $125.50/cwt in December. That was down 60 cents from November but up $4.50 from December 2011.

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