Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 10.1 million head on October 1, 2014. The inventory was 1 percent below October 1, 2013, according to the USDA’s October Cattle on Feed report. Feedyard inventories have run below year-ago totals every month so far this year as buyers compete for continued short supplies of feeder cattle.

The inventory included 6.46 million steers and steer calves, up 1 percent from the previous year. This group accounted for 64 percent of the total inventory. Heifers and heifer calves accounted for 3.55 million head, down 3 percent from 2013. Favorable weather, lower feed prices and an outlook for continued high cattle values appear to be encouraging some ranchers to retain more heifers for breeding. That trend likely will further limit placement numbers in the coming months and keep feedyard inventories below those of a year earlier.

During September, U.S. feedyards placed just over 2 million head. That is an increase of 1 percent over the September 2013 total, but last September saw the lowest placement total for the month since this series of reports began in 1996. This September’s placements are the second lowest.

Cattle weighing over 800 pounds accounted for the largest share of placements, at 770,000 head or 38 percent of the total. About 60 percent of September’s placements weighed more than 700 pounds. We’ll probably see placement weights shift toward the lighter classes over the next few months as this year’s calves begin shipping to feedyards.

Marketings of fed cattle during September totaled 1.68 million, 1 percent below 2013. Short supplies of market-ready cattle continue to drive historically high prices, and the USDA’s Five Area Weekly Accumulated Average Cattle Price for this week came in at $168.67 per hundredweight. The Texas Cattle Feeders Association reports finished steer and heifer prices in their region averaging $170 per hundredweight this week, up $6 from last week’s average of $164.

View the full Cattle on Feed report from USDA.