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Published July 26, 2013, 11:35 AM

July cattle on feed report mostly neutral

The July 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture Cattle on Feed Report showed a 3 percent reduction over the July 2012 report. It also marks the 11th consecutive month of on feed inventory smaller than one year ago, says Darrell Mark, adjunct professor of economics at South Dakota State University.

By: SDSU Extension Service,

BROOKINGS, S.D. — The July 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture Cattle on Feed Report showed a 3 percent reduction over the July 2012 report. It also marks the 11th consecutive month of on feed inventory smaller than one year ago, says Darrell Mark, adjunct professor of economics at South Dakota State University.

“It reported 10.368 million head of cattle on feed in feedyards with more than 1,000 head capacities as of July 1, 2013,” Mark says. “USDA reported that 63 percent or 6.527 million head of the cattle on feed were steers. There were 3.779 million heifers on feed and 62,000 cows and bulls on feed, comprising 36.4 percent and 0.6 percent of the on feed total.”

Because USDA didn’t release its semi-annual cattle inventory report July 19 as scheduled — because of agency budget reductions — Mark says determining actual changes in beef cow numbers during 2013 is difficult and will largely remain an unknown until the next report in January 2014.

“In the meantime, beef cow slaughter data and the number of cows and heifers on feed can be used to infer changes in the size of the beef cow herd,” he says. “Beef cow slaughter was sharply higher than a year ago during March, April and May. As of July 1, 2013, the 62,000 cows and bulls on feed represented an increase of 11 percent or 6,000 head, compared to a year ago.

“Those additional cows on feed will likely boost nonfed slaughter numbers in the weeks to come. So, it appears like producers may still be culling some of their oldest cows from their herds. However, heifer retention interests may have picked up in the last month or so, as the number of heifers on feed on July 1, 2013 declined 139,000 head since last year.”

This is a decrease of 3.5 percent in heifers on feed, whereas the number of steers on feed declined only 3.1 percent.

“Thus, the proportion of heifers on feed comprised slightly less of the total on feed inventory this year on July 1. If this is a sign of potential heifer retention, it comes after sharply higher placements in March and April, which were likely driven in part by additional heifer placements,” Mark says.

USDA indicated that total placements into feedyards were 1.587 million head in June 2013. Mark explained this is a decrease of 4.6 percent, but that placements were concentrated in the heaviest weight categories.

June placements included 625,000 head weighing more than 800 pounds, which is a 27 percent increase from last year. Seven hundred to 799 pound placements were 7 percent higher than a year ago, while placements of 600 to 699 pounds and less than 600 pound feeders were down 28 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

“These large changes relative to a year ago are partially a result of sharply higher placements of light-weight feeder cattle last year in response to drought and poor pasture/range conditions prompting early weaning,” Mark says. “With improved pasture/range conditions this year and high corn prices last month, less early weaning has occurred this year and more stockers could be run on summer pasture.”

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