The USDA released its delayed and much anticipated October Cattle on Feed report on Thursday, Oct. 31, showing on-feed inventories at 10.1 million head as of Oct. 1, down 8 percent from a year earlier.  The report had been scheduled for October 18 but was delayed due to the government shutdown.

Inventories have run below the year-earlier figures every month this year. In fact, the last time the monthly report showed a year-to-year increase in feedyard inventories was August 2012, when numbers were up 1 percent from the previous August.

Based on a total capacity of 16.7 million head in U.S. feedlots with capacity of 1,000 head or more, feedyard occupancy rates were just above 60 percent of capacity on October 1.

Placements into feedyards during September totaled just over 2 million head, according to the report, which was up 1 percent from those during September 2012. Marketings of finished cattle during September totaled 1.7 million head, which was up 6 percent from September 2012.

Although the placement total was up slightly from a year ago, it is worth noting that placements during September 2012 were down 19 percent from a year earlier and represented the lowest placement total since the series began in 1996. So the placement figure for September 2013 remains low by historical standards. Placements likely have picked up during October and will continue through the rest of the year, but inventories probably will remain well below last year’s. 

Cattle weighing over 700 pounds accounted for 60 percent of September placements and those weighing over 800 pounds made up the largest weight group among September placements at 735,000 head, or 36 percent of the total.

The numbers in the October report were about in line with most industry expectations and should provide bullish support for continued high fed-cattle prices, which last week reached record highs above $133 per hundredweight.

USDA also released its Livestock Slaughter report on Thursday, showing beef production during September at 2.07 billion pounds, 3 percent above the previous year. Cattle slaughter totaled 2.61 million head, up 3 percent from September 2012. The average live weight was up 2 pounds from the previous year, at 1,313 pounds.

Read the full Cattle on Feed report from USDA.