Inventories in U.S. feedlots with 1,000 head or more reached 99 percent of one year ago on March 1 according to the March Cattle on Feed report from USDA. March marks the 18th consecutive month in which inventories were below year-ago levels, but large numbers of cattle placed into feedlots early this year have brought the total closer to a year ago.
Placements into feedlots during February, at 1.65 million head, beat those of a year earlier by 15 percent and exceeded most industry predictions. The large February placements followed a 9 percent year-to-year increase during January.
Feedlots placed more cattle during February than they marketed, as was the case during January. February marketings totaled 1.55 million head, down three percent from a year ago and the lowest marketing total since the current data series began in 1996.
High fed-cattle prices, currently averaging around $150 per hundredweight, coupled with lower cost of gain have pushed feeder profits to high levels, averaging $246.70 per head for the week ending March 15 according to our Sterling Profit Tracker. Those profits have helped encourage placement of cattle that otherwise might have gone into spring grazing programs.
Not surprisingly for this time of year, 56 percent of the February placements arrived at feedlots weighing more than 700 pounds. About 24 percent arrived weighing less than 600 pounds and 20 percent weighed between 600 and 699 pounds.
Placements into feedlots likely will slow somewhat for the next few months due to short supplies and more competition from green grass, but we could see on-feed inventories reach year-earlier levels soon.
View the full Cattle on Feed report from USDA.