Cattle On Feed

Ron Plain
University of Missouri
February 26, 2015

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The February cattle on feed report was bearish. USDA said the number of cattle on feed in large feedlots at the start of February was up 0.3% compared to February 2013. The pre-release trade forecast was for the on-feed number to be equal to last year. This is the fourth consecutive month that the number of cattle on feed has been above the year-ago level.

January placements of cattle into large feed yards (over 1,000 head capacity) were 11.3% lower than in January 2014. The 1.787 million head placed was the fewest for any January since 2007. The average of pre-release trade forecasts was for January placements to be down 13.7%.

The Livestock Marketing Information Center put the average returns for fed steers marketed in January at a negative $208 per head. That is the second month in a row with red ink and the worst month since July 2012.

USDA said marketings of fed cattle from large feed yards during January totaled 1.625 million head, down 9.1% compared to January 2014, and the lowest January since before USDA started this data series in 1996. The trade predicted January marketings would be down 8.8%. There was one fewer marketing day in January 2015 than a year earlier. January steer and heifer slaughter was down 9.5%.

The calculated average weight of cattle placed on feed during January was up 1.3% from January 2014. The number of cattle placed on feed weighing less than 600 pounds was down 13.8% from the previous January. Placements of feeders weighing 600 to 700 pounds were down 21.8%; placements weighing 700 to 800 pounds were down 14.7%, and placements weighing more than 800 pounds were up 2.7% compared to a year earlier.

The average price of choice beef in grocery stores during January was a record $6.333 per pound. That was up 2.3 cents from the month before and 98.7 cents higher than in January 2014. The average retail price for all fresh beef in January was $6.00 per pound, up 1.8 cents from the record set in December.

The 5 area average price for slaughter steers in January was $164.40/cwt.

Cattle on Feed, 1000+ Capacity Feedlots, U.S.
2013 2014 2015 Percent of
Year Ago
1,000 head
On Feed January 1 11,182 10,523 10,626 101.0%
Placed during January 1,869 2,014 1,787 88.7%
Marketed during January 1,892 1,788 1,625 90.9%
Other Disappearance 79 71 77 108.5%
On Feed February 1 11,024 10,678 10,771 100.3%

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