Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 10.8 million head on April 1, 2015, the April USDA Cattle on Feed report said.
The inventory was slightly above April 1, 2014. The inventory included 7.46 million steers and steer calves, up 5% from the previous year. This group accounted for 69% of the total inventory.
Heifers and heifer calves accounted for 3.34 million head, down 10% from 2014. The sharp reduction in heifers says cow calf producers are retaining heifers for herd expansion.
Placements in feedlots during March totaled 1.81 million, slightly above 2014, but about 4% higher than traders expected. That's a bit bearish on Monday's trade.
Net placements were 1.74 million head. During March, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 365,000, 600 to 699 pounds were 275,000, 700 to 799 pounds were 449,000, and 800 pounds and greater were 720,000.
Marketings of fed cattle during March totaled 1.63 million, 2% below 2014 and a tad less than traders expected. Still, March marketings are the lowest since the series began in 1996.
Other disappearance totaled 69,000 during March, 6% above 2014. That group could include cows that have been in feed lots and are now going back into breeding herds.
Little relief for consumers. Despite higher placements than expected cattle and beef supplies remain historically tight. Wholesale pork prices have plunged much lower than beef. However, retailers have yet to pass much of that price drop on to consumers.
The entire meat complex is worried about avian influenza. Poultry trade disruptions could put a lot more poultry on the domestic market that would be bad news for beef and pork producers.