The Interesting Part of the Cattle on Feed Report

I think the most interesting number in USDA’s latest Cattle on Feed report (released Friday January 20th) was the quarterly number of heifers on feed.  The report indicated 4.65 million heifers were on feed on January 1, down 25,000 head from January 1, 2022.  The quarterly data breaks out the number of heifers and steers on feed and is released in January, April, July, and October.  When comparing to the same quarter of the prior year, it was the first quarter since July 1, 2021 that registered a decline in the number of heifers in feedlots.  That slightly fewer heifers are on feed than last year does not indicate a movement toward herd rebuilding, but it may indicate that there are fewer heifers to place as total cattle numbers decline.  Compared to January 1, 2022, steers on feed were down 4.5 percent compared to the 0.5 percent decline in heifers.  

Of the total cattle inventory on feed, 39.8 percent were heifers, the largest percentage since 2001.  Heifers as a percent of cattle on feed exceeded 40 percent in 2000 and 2001 which was another period of cow herd contraction.  This quarterly data began in 1996.

The headline numbers were not much different than expected.  Marketings were down 6.1 percent, placements down 8 percent, and total cattle on feed were down 2.9 percent.  

Author: David Anderson

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

Anderson, David. “The Interesting Part of the Cattle on Feed Report.Southern Ag Today 3(4.2). January 24, 2023. Permalink