USDA Report Reveals a 4% Decrease in Cattle Placements within Feedlots

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Cattle placements in U.S. feedlots have experienced a second consecutive monthly decline. According to the USDA, 1.704 million head of cattle were introduced to feedlots in December 2023, reflecting a 4% decrease compared to December 2022. This decrease suggests a potential tightening of market-ready supplies later in the year, with the majority of placements involving cattle weighing less than 800 pounds.

During December, marketings dropped by 1% to 1.253 million head. Meanwhile, the total number of U.S. cattle on feed as of January 1st increased by 2% to reach 11.93 million head. Within this on-feed total, there were 7.195 million steers and steer calves, and 4.735 million heifers and heifer calves, both showing a 2% increase from the previous year.

While the numerical trends appear mostly neutral to slightly supportive for cash and futures prices, the ultimate impact will depend on demand factors. The USDA’s bi-annual Cattle Inventory report is scheduled for release on Wednesday, January 31st, at 3 Eastern/2 Central.

For specific states:

  • In Iowa, the on-feed count reached 630,000 head, up 2% from January 1st, 2023. Placements were 83,000 head, a 1% decrease from December 2022, and marketings remained unchanged at 92,000 head.
  • Kansas reported an on-feed total of 2.48 million head, reflecting a 4% increase from January 1st, 2023. Placements decreased by 9% to 395,000 head compared to December 2022, while marketings increased by 11% to 405,000 head on the year.
  • Minnesota’s on-feed number stood at 105,000 head, marking an 11% increase from January 1st, 2023. Placements were 16,000 head, a 23% rise from December 2022, while marketings decreased by 17% to 10,000 head on the year.
  • Nebraska reported an on-feed count of 2.56 million head, down 2% from January 1st, 2023. Placements decreased by 7% to 435,000 head compared to December 2022, and marketings dropped by 6% to 440,000 head on the year.
  • South Dakota witnessed a 10% increase in on-feed numbers, reaching 230,000 head from January 1st, 2023. Placements were 37,000 head, a 9% rise from December 2022, while marketings decreased by 12% to 35,000 head on the year.

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