Tightened Fed Cattle Supplies Ahead


The USDA released its April Cattle on Feed Report last Friday and the numbers were outside of pre-report estimates. The total number of cattle on feed in feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 head or more totaled 11.8 million head on April 1, making it 1.5% higher than a year ago. While the total is higher than this time last year, it is less than pre-report estimates. March placements were 12.3% lower compared to March 2023, and again this was below average trade guesses.

Fed Cattle marketed was also lower than expected, coming in at 14% below last year. The number of heifers and heifer calves in feedlots accounted for 4.56 million head (38.5%) of the on-feed total, which is 1% higher than last year but lower than last quarter’s average.

The report paints a picture of tightening fed cattle supplies in the months ahead. Fed cattle prices were $1 lower last week, with wholesale prices also lower. The Choice beef cutout averaged $297.44, making it $2.83 lower on the week. The weekly harvest estimate of 620,000 head was 17,000 more than the previous week and 5,000 below a year ago.

Cattle Prices

Fed cattle were steady to $1.00 lower. High Choice and Prime beef breed steers and heifers brought $173 to $179/cwt, with a few instances of packages bringing $179 to $185/cwt and some bringing $186 to $189/cwt. Choice steers and heifers ranged from $163 to $173/cwt, with mixed grading and those likely to grade Select bringing $150 to $163/cwt. Holstein steers were mostly steady. High grading steers brought $156 to $166/cwt, with reports of some from $166 to $170/cwt and a few higher. Lower grading steers brought $127 to $156. Silage fed, under finished, or heavy dairy breed steers brought $75 to $125/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were lower, bringing $128 to $173/cwt, with some higher.

Cows were mixed but mostly lower. The bulk of the cows brought $90 to $115/cwt with some to the upper $120s. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $89/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were steady. Most brought $200 to $400/head with some heavier, well-managed calves selling to $600. Beef and Beef Cross calves were steady, selling to $900/head with a few higher.