Fewer Cattle on Feed Expected

Friday brings USDA’s first cattle on feed report of the year and will lead us to the cattle inventory report to be released on January 31st.  This article takes a look at some expectations for the cattle on feed report.

All three categories, December marketings, placements, and the January 1 number of cattle on feed are expected to be smaller than last year.  Feedlot marketings are expected to be about 5.5 percent smaller than last year.  Marketings are highly influenced by the number of slaughter days in the month.  Slaughter days are the number of days in the month minus holidays and weekend days.  December 2022 had the same number of days, 21, as December 2021.  That implies a lower daily rate of marketings.  It’s likely that they were reduced by some winter storms and falling packer margins.

Feedlot placements, or the number of cattle placed into feedlots, in December is expected to be about 10 percent smaller than last December.  Several sets of data are relevant to the number of cattle going on feed. USDA reports weekly data on feeder receipts, or sales, at auction markets, internet and video sales, and direct sales.  It is not a complete accounting of all sales each week.  It was 36 percent smaller than December 2021.  The number of feeder cattle reported on the CME index was about 10.5 percent smaller than December 2021.  About the same number of feeder cattle were imported from Mexico as last year.

Fewer cattle marketings and placements leaves about 3.5 percent fewer cattle on feed to start this year compared to last year.  Fewer cattle on feed would continue the trend of shrinking numbers.  It will lead to less beef production and likely higher cattle prices this year.  One of the interesting numbers to look at in this report will be the estimate of the number of heifers on feed as of January 1.  Heifers have been a growing percent of all cattle on feed as the cow herd has been reduced.  

Author: David Anderson

Professor and Extension Economist Livestock and Food Products Marketing, Dairy, Policy

Anderson, David. “Fewer Cattle on Feed Expected.” Southern Ag Today 3(3.2). January 17, 2023. Permalink