So far this year, the number of cattle and calves on feed in the United States has run very close to that of a year ago, and the April Cattle on Feed report from USDA shows the trend continuing. As of April 1, cattle in feedlots with capacity for 1,000 head or more totaled 10.8 million head, up by less than 1 percent from a year earlier.

Feedlots placed more cattle than they marketed during March, with the report listing placements at 1.81 million, slightly above those during March 2014. Marketings of fed cattle during March totaled 1.63 million, 2 percent below 2014. March marketings are the lowest since the series began in 1996.

As typical for this time of year, most of the placements during March were in the heavier weight classes, with 65 percent arriving in feedlots weighing 700 pounds or more.

The report provides further evidence that some herd rebuilding is taking place, with year-over-year declines in the number of heifers placed into feedlots. The April 1 inventory included 7.46 million steers and steer calves, up 5 percent from the previous year and accounting for 69 percent of the total. Heifers and heifer calves, meanwhile, accounted for 3.34 million head, which was down 10 percent from 2014.

The January 1 Cattle inventory report showed beef replacement heifers up by 4 percent from a year earlier. The 2015 mid-year inventory report, which USDA will release on July 24, will provide information on how many heifers producers are retaining for breeding this year.

View the full April Cattle on Feed report from USDA.