The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the latest “Cattle on Feed” report this week, showing cattle and calves on feed in feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 12.0 million head on December 1, 2020, only slightly above the same period last year.
Placements in feedlots during November totaled 1.91 million head, 9% below 2019. Net placements were 1.85 million head. During November, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 520,000 head, 600-699 pounds were 460,000 head, 700-799 pounds were 400,000 head, 800-899 pounds were 306,000 head, 900-999 pounds were 130,000 head, and 1,000 pounds and greater were 90,000 head.
Marketings of fed cattle during November totaled 1.78 million head, 2% below 2019.
Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist Derrell Peel noted this week that feedlot dynamics have made challenging to determine exactly what is going on in fed cattle markets. He relayed that monthly feedlot placements have varied from 23% lower year over year in March to 11% higher year over year in July, to 11% below one year ago in October. For the January to November period, total placements were down 4.4% year over year. In the last six months, which would include the majority of current feedlot inventories, placements have been 0.5% above the same period last year.
Peel said feedlot marketings have also been very volatile, with monthly marketings varying from 13% above last year in March to 27% below last year in May. In September, marketings were back to 6% higher year over year in September. For the year to date through November, total marketings were down 3.1% year over year. In the last six months, Peel noted that feedlot marketings were just fractionally higher than the same period last year.
Looking ahead, Peel suggested flows of cattle through feedlots should begin to show more consistent tightening in 2021.