USDA’s August Cattle on Feed report shows feedyard inventories as of August 1 running 1 percent below those of one year ago, although on-feed numbers in some parts of the country are well up from last year.

Placements into feedyards during July were down a full 10 percent from those during July 2011, but last-year’s placements were unusually high. July placements were up by 258,000 head over those in June, or close to 15 percent.

Compared with July 2011, placements were down in every weight class except for those weighing 800 pounds or more, where there was a slight increase. Cattle weighing less than 600 pounds accounted for 26 percent of July placements while those weighing 600 to 699, 700 to 799 and 800 or more accounted for 17 percent, 24 percent and 33 percent respectively.

Feedyards placed a few more cattle during July than they marketed, with 1.92 million head placed versus 1.91 million marketed. Compared with July 2011, marketings were down less than 1 percent.

With severe drought affecting the majority of ranch country this year, producers and cattle feeders face a dilemma. Forage shortages are encouraging ranchers to wean and ship calves early, but at the same time, feedyard cost of gain in the range of $1.20 per pound discourages feeders from placing lightweight calves. Feedyards this fall will be looking to utilize alternative feeds such as corn silage, and optimize their use of co-products such as distillers’ grains.

The state-by-state data in the August report appear to reflect the availability of those feeds, showing inventories growing in Corn Belt feeyards. As of August 1, for example, Iowa on-feed numbers were up 7 percent from a year ago and Nebraska numbers were up 13 percent. Texas numbers meanwhile were down 6 percent, Oklahoma down 11 percent and Kansas down 1 percent.

During July, Nebraska feedyards placed 5 percent more cattle than in July 2011, while Texas placements were down 25 percent and Oklahoma placements were down 11 percent. Much of the reduction in Texas and Oklahoma placements reflects the short supply of feeder cattle in the region after last year’s liquidation. Kansas placements were down 7 percent from last July.

Fed cattle this week gained about $1 per pound, selling at $120 to $122 per hundredweight, according to USDA’s Weekly Feeder and Stocker Cattle Summary.

USDA’s August Cattle on Feed report shows feedyard inventories as of August 1 running 1 percent below those of one year ago, although on-feed numbers in some parts of the country are well up from last year.

View the full Cattle on Feed report from USDA.