Market News & Headlines >> Feedlot Placements Smaller than Expected

Fewer cattle were placed into U.S. feedlots during March than the livestock trade had anticipated, which should be supportive for live cattle prices.

The monthly USDA Cattle-on-Feed Report released Friday afternoon pegged March feedlot placements at 95.3% of a year earlier, matching the low end of trade expectations, which averaged 100.8% of last year and ranged as high as 104%. As a result of the lower-than-expected placements, the April 1 feedlot inventory came in at 99.4% of a year earlier, toward the low end of expectations that averaged 100.2% in a range from 99.0%-100.8%.

USDA confirmed slower feedlot marketings, pegging March marketings at 96.3% versus trade estimates averaging 96.4% in a range from 95.0%-98.8%.

In actual numbers, USDA reported the April 1 supply of cattle on feed at 10.860 million head, down 55,000 from a year earlier. On average, the trade had expected an increase of 22,000 head.

March placements were 1.795 million head, 89,000 below a year earlier, but 135,000 above a month earlier. On average, the trade had expected placements of 1.899 million head. Placements were likely limited by tightening supplies of feeder cattle outside of feedlots and a dip in feedlot margins due to stronger corn and feeder cattle prices.

March feedlot marketings totaled 1.660 million head, within 2,000 of the trade consensus and 64,000 head below a year earlier. The markeitings were the lowest on record for the month going back to 1993, the start of the current USDA data series. Feedlot marketings are expected to be down from last year due largely to smaller market-ready cattle supplies during the month and higher cattle weights.