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2 fewer, 2 extra slaughter days impact feedyard marketings

For the first time since the mid-1990s, two fewer slaughter days in March and two extra days in April increased feedyard marketings by 10%. Prices continue to be high.

David P. Anderson, Livestock Marketing Specialist

June 4, 2024

7 Slides

USDA released their May cattle on feed report on Friday, May 24th. For the first time in eight months the total number of cattle on feed declined below last year’s level. The 11.5 million cattle on feed were the fewest since September 2023. The number of cattle in feedlots has been pumped up by placing more heifers, some pulling of feeder cattle ahead, and a few more cattle from Mexico compared to the year before.

Due to when holidays fell this Spring and weekends, there were two fewer slaughter days in March compared to last year and two extra days in April. This large swing in days has not happened since the mid-1990s. The two extra days in April meant that feedyard marketings were more than 10% larger than April last year. Placements were almost 6% fewer than last year and were the smallest since 2020.  

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The combination of large marketings and light placement numbers pulled down cattle on feed below a year ago. There are still more cattle on feed for more than 90 days and 120 days than a year ago so that should keep dressed weights high.  

The wholesale beef market, as measured by the Choice beef cutout, has jumped more than $16 per cwt in the last two weeks. Remember that the cattle on feed report is a little bit backward looking. It contains marketings and placements in April and the number of cattle on feed on May 1. In the ensuing couple of weeks prices have jumped higher. Whether that increase reflects some packer cut back in processing to try to boost prices, some Memorial Day summer bump in buying, or fewer cattle on feed, or a combination of all three (most likely) the end result is higher wholesale beef prices. 

Related:Mentors help collegians explore beef careers

Fed cattle prices are also increasing. Fewer cattle on feed promises to cut beef supplies that have actually been larger than last year over the last eight weeks. Tighter supplies will work to boost prices for calves, feeders, and feds.

View this slideshow to view USDA-NASS charts, including fed cattle marketings, cattle on feed, cattle on feed over 120 days, and boxed beef cutout value, plus links to popular beef articles.

Source: Southern Ag Today, a collaboration of economists from 13 Southern universities.

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About the Author(s)

David P. Anderson

Livestock Marketing Specialist, Texas AgriLife and Texas A&M university

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