Source: Government of Alberta
“U.S. cattle and calves on feed for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head were estimated at 11.6 million on October 1, 2023, 1% higher than the same time last year,” says Ann Boyda, provincial livestock market analyst with the Alberta government. “Placements during September were 6% higher than 2022. Dryness in many parts of the U.S. pushed more cattle into feedlots. The pace of marketing slowed during September to 1.66 million head, 11% below 2022.”
Placements were up primarily in the cattle feeding areas of Kansas and Texas with increases of 60,000 and 55,000 head, respectively. California, Colorado and Idaho placed fewer cattle on feed than the year prior. Heifers on feed were at 4,635,000 head for October 1, 2023, a 1.3% increase over 2022 numbers which suggests little retention in the U.S.
“Margins at U.S. feedlots are still favourable; however, as feeder supplies are anticipated to tighten into 2024, producers will look to cheaper feed costs for relief,” explains Boyda.
For the week ending September 30, Sterling Marketing Inc. has estimated feedlot margins at just under US$300 per head and packer margins at a loss of just over US$88 per head.
“Negative packer margins were expected to slow slaughter rates into the fourth quarter of 2023; however, the prospect of improved cutout values could help maintain inventory levels. U.S. cutout values are currently being supported by seasonal demand and have moved higher to US$304.12 per hundredweight on U.S. Choice and US$277.48 per hundredweight on U.S. Select.”
On October 13, 2023, Canfax released its Cattle on Feed report for October 1 cattle numbers. Cattle feeders in Alberta and Saskatchewan reported 921,390 head on October 1, 2023, up 4% from 2022. Placements in September 2023 were up 2% over last year, driven by a greater than 16% increase in heifer placement. Fed cattle marketings during September were down 12% over 2022.
Chart 1. Cattle on Feed Inventory Change: October 1, 2023 from 2022
“Signs point to tighter fed supplies and moisture conditions remain the main obstacle to growth in both Alberta and the major cattle producing states,” says Boyda. “Alberta’s recently announced drought relief program (Canada-Alberta Drought Livestock Assistance program) will help strengthen resilience in the sector and hopefully stabilize the cow herd. Producers do recognize that any rebuilding of the herd will be a lengthy process.”