The Agriculture Department’s Jan. 26 Cattle on Feed report revealed Jan. 1 cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market reached 11.5 million head, up 8 percent over prior-year levels and in line with the average trade estimate of an 8-percent increase. For three consecutive months U.S. cattle on feed has been above 11 million head, suggesting that cattle inventory levels are now back to 2012 levels.   

On a volume basis, the number of cattle on feed on Jan. 1 surged by 884,000 head above year-ago levels, representing the largest volume increase in more than a decade. December’s increase in cattle on feed continues the growth experienced in the sector during each month of 2017. In fact, the number of cattle on feed has been above prior-year levels in 21 out of the last 24 months

The number of cattle on feed was the highest in Texas, Nebraska and Kansas, where a combined 7.5 million cattle were on feed. States with the largest increases during December included Texas, Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa, which added a combined 680,000 head, i.e. placements minus marketings, i.e. sales for slaughter, and other uses. Of the major states reported, only Idaho saw a reduction in the number of cattle on feed compared to a year ago. On a percentage basis, states with the largest increase in cattle on feed were Iowa, California, Washington and Nebraska

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