USDA’s Cattle on Feed report, released this afternoon, shows feedyards remain reluctant to place cattle in large numbers. The report shows cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 10.4 million head on June 1, 2009.   The inventory was 4 percent below June 1, 2008. 

Placements into feedlots during May totaled 1.64 million, which is 14 percent below the year-earlier figure. Net placements were 1.54 million head.  This is the second lowest placements for the month of May since the series began in 1996. Improved pasture conditions in many parts of the country have built demand for grass cattle, which likely limited feedyard placements this spring.

Marketings of fed cattle were down 9 percent from a year ago during May. Feedyards sold more cattle than they placed though, with marketings totaling 1.95 million head.

Continued short supplies of finished cattle suggest that prices could strengthen during the second   half of this year, if economic trends and beef demand begin to improve.

The full report is available on line from USDA.