Cattle on Feed Climb Above a Year Ago

By : David P. Anderson, Professor and Extension Economist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

NASS released its November Cattle on Feed report on Friday November 22. The report indicated more cattle on feed than a year ago for the first time since August, 2019. On feed inventories totaled 11.8 million head, 139,000 head more than November, 2018. In percentage terms on feed was up 1.2 percent.
Inventories grew on the strength of the largest October placements, 2.477 million head, since October, 2010 when 2.5 million head were placed. October is typically the largest placement month of the year due to large numbers of calves being weaned and sold and cattle coming off long summer grazing programs. Slightly fewer cattle were placed weighing less than 700 pounds than a year ago, 1.14 million in 2019 compared to 1.165 million last year. But, all the decline came from the lightest weights, those under 600 pounds which numbered 40,000 fewer than last year. The under 600 pound category was the only category in which fewer cattle were placed than a year ago. Placements of cattle weighing more than 700 pounds were up 254,000 more than a year ago. September is normally the largest placement month in the Fall of heavier cattle. (Typically, March and May are also large heavy weight placement months due to wheat pasture and other winter grazing programs.) It would appear that anecdotal stories of cattle doing very well this summer were accurate, given placement weights. It’s interesting to note that 25,000 more head were placed weighing over 1,000 pounds than a year ago. For the year, placements are about half a percent ahead of last year.
On balance, the report did not differ a lot from pre-report estimates. Marketings were about as expected in the pre-report estimates, down 0.6 percent from a year ago and in line with daily slaughter for the month. Placements were expected to be large and on feed to grow. There were profitable opportunities to place with rising futures prices for the Spring.
You may have seen stories on a little bit higher turkey prices this year due to a little less production and supplies. But, of course most grocery stores run specials anyway. My local grocery store ran a “buy a ham, get a turkey for free” deal this year. Whatever you main dish of choice is on Thanksgiving Day, have a blessed day and pause for a moment to give thanks. Best wishes!
The Markets
Local Texas auction markets reported steady to a little higher calf prices last week. Cull cows continue to take a beating in local markets with reported prices as low as $0.08 per pound. Fed cattle price crept a bit higher, hitting $116. The Choice-Select spread remains historically high as the percent grading Choice continues to lag a year ago.
Week of
Week of
Week of
Data Source: USDA-AMS Market News
5-Area Fed Steer
all grades, live weight
all grades, dressed weight
Boxed Beef
Choice Price, 600-900 lb.
Choice-Select Spread
700-800 lb. Feeder Steer
Montana 3-market
Nebraska 7-market
Oklahoma 8-market
500-600 lb. Feeder Steer
Montana 3-market
Nebraska 7-market
Oklahoma 8-market
Feed Grains
Corn, Omaha, NE, $/bu
DDGS, Nebraska, $/ton
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