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Cattle on Feed December placements surprise

Cattle on Feed December placements surprise

Cattle in feedlot

The latest Cattle on Feed report, released Jan.  22, showed the on-feed picture to begin the new year and also the placements and marketings information for December 2020.

Josh Maples, assistant professor and Extension economist for Mississippi State University, says the December 2020 placements were a surprise.

“The biggest surprise in the report was the nearly 1% larger placement total during December 2020 than during December 2019,” he says in his In the Cattle Markets column. “Pre-report estimates were for lower placements than a year ago and the small increase was slightly outside the range of expectations. Total placements were 1.84 million head, which is the second largest total for December (behind 2005) since the series began in 1996.”

“At the state level, the biggest placement increases from December 2019 by number of head were in Iowa, Colorado and Nebraska, which were up 21,000, 15,000 and 15,000 head, respectively,” Maples says. “Placements in Texas and Oklahoma were lower than a year ago, down 30,000 and 16,000, respectively.”

The Cattle on Feed report closed the book on a wild 2020, which saw a lot of impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.

“This was the last Cattle on Feed report for the volatile 2020,” Maples says. “A look back at the monthly placement totals for the year show a 4.1% decline in placements during calendar year 2020 as compared to 2019.”

The feedlot mix of steers and heifers was similar to a year ago.

“The percentage of heifers in the feedlot mix trended up from 2015-19 as a result of the cattle cycle, but 2020 quarterly totals were slightly lower than 2019 due in part to the feedlot disruptions in the spring and summer,” Maples says.

Fed cattle marketings were about in line with expectations and one of the higher totals in recent years.

“Marketings of fed cattle were up 1% which was near the pre-report expectations,” Maples says. “This was the second largest marketings total for a December since 1996, trailing only 2010.”

Despite all the disruptions in 2020, the Jan. 1 cattle on feed total for 2021 was similar to a year ago, he says.

“Altogether, the total number of cattle on feed on Jan. 1 was very near year-ago levels,” Maples says. “Looking ahead, higher feed prices are likely to impact feedlot decisions including a potential preference toward larger placements.”

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Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.

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