Beef cattle in a feedlot near Medicine Park, Okla. Cattle on feed are at record highs for this time of year.

The number of cattle and calves on feed in large U.S. feedlots is the highest April 1 inventory on record since the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s data series began in 1996.

At 11.96 million, the inventory is up 2% over a year ago, NASS reported.

Higher year-over-year counts were reported in eight of the 12 largest cattle-feeding states, including Texas — which was up 150,000 head, or 6%, to 2.85 million.

Significant increases were also seen in Colorado, which was up 12%; Idaho, up 14%; and California, Arizona and Washington, which were each up 7%.

The inventory in Kansas was up 2% to 2.38 million, while the count in Nebraska was down 4% to 2.58 million.

Placements into feedlots in March increased nearly 5% year over year to 2.01 million head and were a little bigger than most analysts expected, said Derrell Peel, an Oklahoma State University livestock marketing specialist.

Placements were up in eight of the 12 largest cattle feeding states, including Texas (5%), Kansas (16%), Colorado (21%), California (4%), Oklahoma (13%), South Dakota (7%), Idaho (52%) and Washington (17%).

March placements were down 4% each in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. Minnesota was down 6% and Arizona was down 9%.

Severe winter weather likely impacted inventory and placement numbers.

Storms, blizzards, floods and mud have affected much of cattle country. In some cases it could have stalled placements. In others, it could have accelerated placements. It could also have delayed finished cattle from moving out of feedlots, he said.

Analysts don’t know for sure yet, he said.

But “weather has had a variety of impacts, and we’ll probably see some residual of that in the market for several more weeks,” he said.

Marketings of fed cattle in March were down 3.4% year over year. Adjusting for one less business day this March, however, they were slightly higher than a year ago. And marketings January through March are exactly equal to a year earlier, he said.

“The industry has done a very good job … moving these large numbers of cattle through the system in a timely manner,” he said.

For almost two years, the industry has marketed cattle faster and more timely as the number of cattle has grown, he said.

For now, winter weather is reducing carcass weights, and beef production is lower than projected. Combined with the start of grilling season demand, it looks like markets will put in another spring peak for fed cattle prices, he said.

Looking ahead, he expects significant calf losses due to winter weather to show up this fall at weaning time, he said.

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