Cattle On Feed

Ron Plain
University of Missouri
January 23, 2015

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The January cattle on feed report was a bit bullish. USDA said the number of cattle on feed in large feedlots at the start of January was up 0.9% compared to January 2013. The pre-release trade forecast was for the on-feed number to be up 1.4%. This is the third consecutive month that the number of cattle on feed has been above the year-ago level.

December placements of cattle into large feed yards (over 1,000 head capacity) were 8.0% lower than in December 2013. The 1.544 million head placed was the fewest for any December since 2009. The average of pre-release trade forecasts was for December placements to be down 4.3%.

USDA said marketings of fed cattle from large feed yards during December totaled 1.655 million head, down 4.7% compared to December 2013, and the lowest December since 2007. The trade predicted December marketings would be down 4.2%. There was one extra marketing day in December 2014 than a year earlier. December steer and heifer slaughter was down 4.4%.

For all of 2014, placements were 1.9% lower than in 2013 and marketings were 5.3% lower. Feedlots started 2014 with the on feed inventory down 5.2% and ended with on the feed number up 0.9%.

The calculated average weight of cattle placed on feed during December was up 0.7% from December 2013. The number of cattle placed on feed weighing less than 600 pounds was down 8.4% from the previous December. Placements of feeders weighing 600 to 700 pounds were down 11.8%; placements weighing 700 to 800 pounds were down 14.0%, and placements weighing more than 800 pounds were up 2.6% compared to a year earlier.

The number of steers on feed was up 2.3% at the start of the year while heifer numbers were down 1.6% compared to January 2014. This indicates that more heifers are being kept for breeding.

The average price of choice beef in grocery stores during December was a record $6.31 per pound. That was up 0.7 cents from the month before and 95 cents higher than in December 2013. The average retail price for all fresh beef in December was $6.00 per pound, up 6.5 cents from the record set in September.

The 5 area average price for slaughter steers in December was $163.10/cwt.

Cattle on Feed, 1000+ Capacity Feedlots, U.S.
2012 2013 2014 Percent of
Year Ago
1,000 head
On Feed December 1 11,348 10,724 10,873 101.4%
Placed during December 1,576 1,679 1,544 92.0%
Marketed during December 1,678 1,736 1,655 95.3%
Other Disappearance 74 77 72 93.5%
On Feed January 1 11,172 10,590 10,690 100.9%

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