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Cattle on feed and feeder supplies

Contributed by Derrell S. Peel Published on 26 February 2021

The February Cattle on Feed report from the USDA showed a Feb. 1 feedlot inventory of 12.1 million head, 101.5% of one year ago. January placements were 2.017 million head, up 3.2% year over year.

Placements were higher than the average pre-report estimate but at the top end of the range of analyst estimates. The increase in placements was mostly in cattle weighing 700-900 pounds but did also include a 5.1% year-over-year increase in cattle weighing less than 600 pounds. January marketings were 1.822 million head, down 5.6% from one year ago and about as expected. However, January 2021 had two less slaughter days than the year before, meaning that daily average marketings this year were 3.8% higher than last year. 

The feedlot situation in early 2021 is a carryover from the disruptions and unusual dynamics last year. For the entire year in 2020, feedlot placements were down 4%. In the last half of the year, feedlot placements were almost unchanged year over year, up 0.3%. However, this average belies dramatic dynamics as feedlot placements in the third quarter were up 8.5% year over year, while placements in the fourth quarter were down 7% from the prior year. Total estimated feeder supplies outside of feedlots on Jan. 1 were 25.66 million head, down just 0.2% year over year. 

The 1.3% year-over-year decrease in the 2020 calf crop, even when adjusted by decreased veal slaughter and increased feeder cattle imports, would have suggested a bigger decrease in the feeder supply on Jan. 1. It appears that some feeder cattle were carried over into 2021 and likely is reflected in the relatively large January placements. Feeder supplies are somewhat front-loaded early in 2021 but should tighten up in the second half of the year.  end mark

This originally appeared in the Feb. 22, 2021, OSU Cow/Calf Corner newsletter.

Derrell S. Peel
  • Derrell S. Peel

  • Livestock Marketing Specialist
  • Oklahoma State University Extension

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