The March cattle on feed report is a bit bullish. USDA said the number of cattle on feed in large feedlots at the start of March was down 0.5% compared to March 2013. The pre-release trade forecast was for the on-feed number to be down 0.4%. This is the first month with fewer cattle on feed than a year earlier since October. The number of cattle on feed is the lowest for any March since 2003.

February placements of cattle into large feed yards (over 1,000 head capacity) were 8.1% lower than in February 2014. The 1.523 million head placed was the fewest for any February since 2013. The average of pre-release trade forecasts was for February placements to be down 7.0%.

The Livestock Marketing Information Center put the average returns for fed steers marketed in February at a negative $337 per head. That is the third month in a row with red ink and the worst month in years.

USDA said marketings of fed cattle from large feed yards during February totaled 1.516 million head, down 2.1% compared to February 2014, and the lowest February since before USDA started this data series in 1996. The trade predicted February marketings would be down 2.6%.

The calculated average weight of cattle placed on feed during February was up 1.5% from February 2014. The number of cattle placed on feed weighing less than 600 pounds was down 15.4% from the previous February. Placements of feeders weighing 600 to 700 pounds were down 18.2%; placements weighing 700 to 800 pounds were down 7.2%, and placements weighing more than 800 pounds were up 2.9% compared to a year earlier.

Cattle on Feed, 1000+ Capacity Feedlots, U.S.
2013 2014 2015 Percent of
Year Ago
1,000 head
On Feed February 1 11,024 10,678 10,713 100.3%
Placed during February 1,869 1,658 1,523 91.9%
Marketed during February 1,892 1,549 1,516 97.9%
Other Disappearance 79 71 62 87.3%
On Feed March 1 11,024 10,716 10,658 99.5%