Citing Kansas State University’s “Focus on Feedlots” survey, the Livestock Marketing Information Center says performance for steer and heifer closeouts in the first quarter of 2009 was much improved over last year. As expected, average cost of gain remained above a year ago, but those costs have been declining with lower grain and energy prices.

During the first quarter of this year, according to the report, slaughter weights were up significantly with steers averaging 1,346 pounds compared with 1,308 pounds one year ago. Heifers finished at an average weight of 1,238 pounds, 26 pounds heavier than last year. Compared with the five-year average for the first quarter, steer slaughter weights averaged 73 pounds heavier. LMIC also notes that placement weights for steers and heifers closed out during the first quarter of this year averaged about 20 pounds heavier than those finished during the same period last year. Those heavier placement weights probably contributed to havier finished weights.

Time on feed averaged 158 days for steers and 156 days for heifers, six days and 10 days less than last year, respectively. Higher average daily gains allowed the shorter feeding periods, with steers averaging 3.51 pounds of gain per day compared with 3.27 pounds during the first quarter of 2008. Heifers gained an average of 3.26 pounds per day, compared with 3.03 pounds per day last year. Feed efficiency also improved, with steers averaging 6.17 pounds of feed per pound of gain and heifers converting feed at 6.33 pounds per pound of gain.

The feport notes that feeding cost of gain ran about $10 per hundredweight higher than last year during the first quarter, with steers averaging $86.64 per hundredweight and heifers averaging $89.34. Although high, those costs were below the peak levels over $90 per hundredweight reported last fall, and that trend has continued this spring. The report notes that projected cost of gain for steers placed in April was $76.50 per hundredweight, the lowest since November of 2007.