The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service released their monthly Cattle on Feed report on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. The latest numbers released by the USDA showed aggressive marketings and were neutral in total numbers on feed and placements. Total cattle on feed on Aug. 1, 2019 numbered 11.1 million head, slightly above August 2018. Pre-report estimates expected cattle on feed numbers to be up 0.6 percent.
Placements in feedlots during July totaled 1.71 million head, down 2.2 percent from 2018. Pre-report estimates anticipated placements down only 0.5 percent. Poor pasture and range conditions helped contribute to lighter placement numbers. Placements were up year over year only in California (21 percent), Washington (3 percent) and non-specified other states. Lightweight categories saw declining placement numbers for July 2019, compared to a year ago. Placements of cattle weighing less than 800 pounds were down 7.6 percent, while cattle weighing over 800 pounds saw placements increase 7.7 percent. Placements as a percentage of marketings were down 8 percent year over year from July 2018. Seasonally, net feedlot placements as a percentage of marketings typically increase between June and October. Given that we have seen a decrease in this number, while the number of feeder cattle remains high indicates placements will be increasing at a faster rate later this fall
July marketings were aggressive but on par with pre-report estimates. Marketings were at 2 million head, up 6.4 percent over July 2018. There was one more marketing day available in 2019 compared to 2018, which would attribute to greater marketings. As of Aug. 1, the estimated supply of cattle on feed over 120 days is 0.7 percent above last year. Total cattle on feed inventory saw the largest July-to-August decline since 2008. Although cattle are currently being marketed in a timely manner, there is danger that this pace will slow and currentness will slip. Given the decrease in slaughter capacity due to the Tyson fire, Saturday slaughter will need to continue to keep the market current. Keeping up with the increased supply in the fourth quarter will be a challenge. — Brenda Boetel, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Wisconsin-River Falls