There were few surprises in the USDA’s most recent Cattle on Feed report, although there were some interesting numbers.

David Anderson, Extension ag economist with Texas A&M University, says the number of heifers on feed caught his attention.

Heifer numbers on July 1 came in at 4.454 million head, up nearly 8 percent from a year ago.

“That was the second largest number of heifers on feed behind only July 2001, when 4.446 million heifers were reported on feed,” Anderson writes in his “In the Cattle Markets” column. “The 7.128 million steers on feed was the most for a July 1 in the data. The steer-heifer data goes back to 1996.”

He added the 11.282 million total cattle on feed was the most in the history of the report, which dates back into the mid-1990s.

Anderson says placements differed regionally, with placements down in Texas and Nebraska and up in Kansas, Iowa and most of the West. Placements were down 20,000 head in Texas alone.

More feedlots placed lightweight cattle in June, with calves weighing less than 700 pounds being placed on feed. There was also a slight increase in placements for cattle weighing more than 900 pounds, Anderson says.

“Overall, the report indicates that the marketings rate is holding up well given the large supplies of cattle,” he says. “That we are moving these large supplies of cattle is a tribute to good demand from retail and export markets and demand for fed cattle from packers.

“Continued good movement will be critical to cattle prices over the next six weeks approaching Labor Day.”

The USDA also released its cattle inventory report. Anderson says the report indicated fewer heifers are being kept for breeding.

“Heifers held for beef cow replacement declined 2.1 percent from a year ago,” he says. “When combined with beef cow and heifer slaughter, the data continues to indicate a drastically slowing rate of herd growth.”

The 2018 calf crop is up 1.9 percent, according to the USDA.

“There will be plenty of calves for sale this fall and available to boost beef supplies through 2019,” Anderson says.

He adds the cattle industry will be keeping an eye on the weather as drought conditions continue in part of the country.

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.