It appears herd expansion has tapered off as feedlots start to increase inventories with heifers.

March placements were up 5% from 2015 with 1.89 million head of calves entering feedlots, according to USDA’s Cattle On Feed report.

Placements by weight are as follows:

  • 600 pounds or less = 352,000 head
  • 600-699 pounds = 275,000 head
  • 700-799 pounds = 495,000 head
  • 800 pounds and greater = 770,000 head

There were 4% more heifers in feedlots on April 1 compared to the same time last year. Approximately 150,000 more heifers were in feedlots to start April, indicating replacement heifer retention has slowed down.

Steers were down 1% in the report with 7.36 million in feedlots on April 1. Steers account for 68% of the total inventory.

Overall feedlots with 1,000 or more capacity had 10.9 million head of cattle on feed on April 1, up 82,000 head from the same time last year.

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Western cattle feeders had mixed results in terms of capacity. California was down 6% from the previous year and 5% from last month at 420,000 cattle on feed. Arizona saw the largest increase of any state at 26% from last year and 2% since March. Arizona cattle feeders have 303,000 head in feedyards.

Minnesota and South Dakota both continue to see large increases in their feedlot capacities year-over-year and slight drops from last month. Minnesota was up 10% from last year, but down 2% since March. South Dakota was up 13% for the year and down 2% from the previous month. Those states combine for a total capacity of 425,000 head in feedlots with 1,000-plus capacity.

The top 5 cattle feeding states for 1,000-plus capacity feedlots are as follows:

  1. Texas: 2,500,000 head
  2. Nebraska: 2,420,000 head
  3. Kansas: 2,180,000 head
  4. Colorado: 900,000 head
  5. Iowa: 640,000 head

A total of 1.75 million cattle went to packers in March, a 7% increase from 2015.

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