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Cattle on feed inventory rises 5%

Cattle in Nebraska feedlot DarcyMaulsby/iStock/Thinkstock.
Placements come in under trade estimate, at 5% below last year's level.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the latest “Cattle on Feed” report Friday, showing that cattle and calves on feed for the U.S. slaughter market for feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 head or more totaled 11.4 million head on Oct. 1, 2018. The inventory was 5% above the same period last year and the highest Oct. 1 inventory since the series began in 1996. The average pre-report estimate was for a 6% increase in the inventory.

USDA report that the inventory included 7.09 million steers and steer calves, up 2% from the previous year. This group accounted for 62% of the total inventory. Heifers and heifer calves accounted for 4.31 million head, up 11% from 2017.


Placements in feedlots during September totaled 2.05 million head, 5% below 2017. The average trade estimate was for no change from last year’s levels.

Rich Nelson, chief strategist for Allendale Inc., said the smaller-than-expected numbers were positive because the trade is quite concerned about last year’s September, October, and November placement numbers that were all from 10-14% over the 2016 numbers.

“We’re being compared against some very big, very large numbers posted last year this time,” he said. “This is very important for us, because September placements help determine part of the March through early August outflow of numbers out of feedlots.”

Net placements were 1.99 million head. During September, placements of cattle and calves were 425,000 head for those weighing less than 600 lb., 330,000 head for those weighing 600-699 lb., 430,000 head for those weighing 700-799 lb., 466,000 head for those weighing 800-899 lb., 280,000 head for those weighing 900-999 lb. and 120,000 head for those weighing 1,000 lb. and greater.

Marketings of fed cattle during September totaled 1.72 million head, 4% below 2017. Analysts had expected a 3% decline.

The report lightens up some of the pressure seen on these summer months, Nelson said, adding that Monday may show a little rebound.

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