A new USDA Cattle on Feed Report indicates the cattle herd continues to shrink. The number of cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market in the U.S. for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head was 11.7 million head on January 1st, 3 percent below January 1, 2022.
The inventory included 7.03 million steers and steer calves, down 4 percent from the previous year. And while the numbers of heifers and heifer calves was down 1 percent from last year, USDA livestock analyst Shayle Shagam notes they are making up a growing percentage of the nation’s feedlot inventory, confirming the downward trend in the cattle herd.
Placements in feedlots during December totaled 1.80 million head, 8 percent below 2021. Net placements were 1.75 million head. During December, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 455,000 head, 600-699 pounds were 435,000 head, 700-799 pounds were 415,000 head, 800-899 pounds were 304,000 head, 900-999 pounds were 105,000 head, and 1,000 pounds and greater were 90,000 head.
Marketing’s of fed cattle during December totaled 1.74 million head, 6 percent below 2021. Shagam, says that number is below what many had expected.
So overall, the number of cattle in feedlots is coming down, and Shagham said folks were just waiting for that shoe to drop.