It’s nearly May and the April showers continue in the southern plains bringing May forage.  For the first time in a long time parts of western Oklahoma are experiencing flash flooding.  Not only are we enjoying more rain than in many months, but the cumulative effect of continued rains, heavy in some locations, will provide better soil moisture penetration and surface water replenishment than the same moisture total in sporadic rains.
 
The April Cattle on Feed report pegs March feedlot placements fractionally above year ago levels, higher than expected.  Placement consisted of a large increase in placements over 800 pounds with reduced placements for all weights under 800 pounds.  March marketings were 98 percent of year earlier totals with one extra business day this year.  The April 1 on-feed total was equal to the same time last year.  Feedlot placements were up in Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska but down in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.  Nebraska had the largest state cattle on feed total for April 1; exceeding Texas for the third month in a row.  Nebraska briefly exceeded the Texas total last year on May 1 for the first time in the current cattle on feed data series back to 1992.
 
One third of the way through 2015, total cattle slaughter for the year to date is down 7.5 percent and beef production is down 5.3 percent.  Total steer and heifer slaughter so far this year is down 7.3 percent, with heifer slaughter leading the decrease, down 8.2 percent.  Total cow slaughter for the year to date is down 7.2 percent, with dairy cow slaughter up 2.1 percent and beef cow slaughter down 17.5 percent. 
 
Reduced heifer and beef cow slaughter indicate that herd expansion is continuing and perhaps accelerating in 2015.  The April 1 inventory of heifers on feed was the lowest quarterly heifer on feed total since October, 1996; near the end of the last complete cyclical expansion in the U.S. beef cattle industry.  Improving moisture conditions in Texas and Oklahoma increase the likelihood that herd expansion plans in those areas will continue.  On January 1, 2015, the combined beef replacement heifer inventories in Texas and Oklahoma accounted for 58 percent of the year over year national increase in beef replacements, which was up 4 percent.