beef cattle Iowa State University

April 2017 placements boost feedlot numbers

Growing feedlot inventories reflect increase in feeder supplies.

Stronger-than-expected April placements resulted in a 2% increase in May 1, 2017, feedlot inventories compared to year-ago levels.

April placements were 11% higher last year, above the average trade guess, although not outside the range of expectations, according to Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist. April marketings were 2.7% higher than last year, also above expectations and a continuation of strong feedlot marketings.

“Slowly growing feedlot inventories reflect the increase in feeder supplies resulting from three years of herd expansion,” Peel said. “The May 1 on-feed inventory is the highest monthly cattle-on-feed total since February 2013 and the highest May total since 2012. A combination of short- and long-run regional factors and trends has resulted in some interesting comparisons of cattle feeding in the major feedlot states.”

Peel compared data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's cattle-on-feed series that dates back to 1992.

Texas has been the largest cattle feeding state since the early 1970s but has trended down in recent years. Texas feedlot inventories have not grown very fast in recent months; the May 1 inventory of 2.46 million head was unchanged from last month and 1.2% lower than last year. In fact, Peel said the current inventory is only 2.1% above the recent low of 2.41 million head in May 2015 -- a low that goes back to 1997. Texas feedlot numbers are currently 20.1% lower than the all-time monthly inventory peak of 3.08 million head in February/March 2001 and 18% lower than the more recent peak of 3.0 million head on feed in November 2011.

Nebraska, the number-two cattle feeding state, has averaged much closer to Texas in recent years due to the decline in Texas' numbers, Peel noted. Nebraska's monthly on-feed inventories have equaled or exceeded the Texas total for several months in recent years and have averaged about 170,000 head less than Texas compared to previous years, when Nebraska typically had about 700,000 head less cattle on feed than Texas on a monthly basis.

Nebraska's current inventory of 2.45 million head is up 1.2% year over year but, like Texas, has grown relatively slowly in recent months. Peel said the current monthly total is just 10,000 head smaller than the Texas total. The current Nebraska feedlot inventory is 4.7% below the state's peak monthly inventory of 2.57 million head in February/March 2012.

In contrast to the top two feedlot states, Peel said feedlot inventories in number-three Kansas have grown aggressively in recent months. Year-over-year placement rates have been higher in Kansas than in Texas and Nebraska in the past six months. The current Kansas feedlot inventory of 2.28 million head is 6% higher than one year ago and is the highest monthly total for the state since December 2011. The all-time peak Kansas feedlot inventory was 2.67 million head in November 2001, Peel added.

Number-four feeding state Colorado has also grown rapidly in the past few months. The May 1 inventory total of 960,000 head is 6.7% higher than last year and is the largest monthly total for Colorado since April 2013. The record cattle feeding inventory in Colorado was 1.25 million head in November 2000, with a more recent peak of 1.13 million head in January 2012.

According to Peel, Iowa is the number-five cattle feeding state, with a current inventory of 680,000 head, up 6.3% from a year ago. Iowa feedlot inventories have grown rapidly in the past six months, with monthly placements averaging nearly 20% higher year over year. This is the fastest growth in placements among the top five feedlot states and has pushed the current Iowa cattle-on-feed inventory to a record high for the data since 1992, he said.

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