Friday’s USDA Cattle on Feed report shows March 1 inventories in U.S. feedlots with 1,000-head capacity or more at 10.9 million head, down 7 percent from a year earlier. Based on USDA’s estimate of total U.S. feedyard capacity at 16.9 million head, occupancy of U.S. feedyards as of March 1 was just 64.5 percent of capacity.

February placements also were down significantly, at just 86 percent of those during February 2012. February marketings, at 1.64 million, were down 7 percent from a year earlier. Feedyards marketed 160,000 more cattle than they placed during February.  

February placements were down from last year in every weight category, reflecting short supplies, high feed prices and a preference for keeping cattle on grass as long as possible. Placements weighing less than 600 pounds were down 11 percent from a year ago and those weighing 600 to 699 pounds were down by 19 percent. Placements weighing 700 to 799 pounds were down by 13 percent and placements in the 800-pound-plus class were down by 12 percent. Cattle weighing more than 700 pounds accounted for 58 percent of total placements.

USDA’s February report also included data on the number of feedlots in the United States, along with inventories and annual marketings by size group for 2011 and 2012.

The report lists 73,000 feedlots with less than 1,000-head capacity in the United States in 2012, down from 75,000 in 2011. Those feedlots, however, accounted for just 11.4 percent of marketings. In contrast, the report lists 2,100 feedlots with more than 1,000-head capacity, and those operations accounted for 88.6 percent of total 2012 marketings.

According to the report, there were 187 feedyards with 24,000-head or more one-time capacity in the United States in 2012, down from 189 in 2011. Those feedyards accounted for 55.3 percent of total marketings in 2012. Sixty-six feedyards with 50,000-head capacity or greater marketed 8.2 million head of cattle during 2012, accounting for 32.7 percent of the total.

Total capacity in U.S. feedlots with 1,000-head or more capacity was 16.9 million head in 2012, down from 17 million in 2011.

Read the full Cattle on Feed report from USDA.