Stronger than expected April placements pushed the May 1 feedlot inventories to 102 percent of year-ago levels. April placements were 111 percent of last year, above the average trade guess though not outside the range of expectations. April marketings were 102.7 percent of last year, also above expectations and a continuation of strong feedlot marketings.
Slowly growing feedlot inventories reflect the increase in feeder supplies resulting from three years of herd expansion. The May 1 on-feed inventory is the highest monthly cattle on feed total since February of 2013 and the highest May total since 2012. A combination of short- and long-run regional factors and trends has resulted in some interesting comparisons of cattle feeding in the major feedlot states. The data comparisons below are based on the current cattle on feed data series that dates back to 1992.
Texas has been the largest cattle feeding state since the early 1970s, but has trended down in recent years. Texas feedlot inventories have not grown very fast in recent months with the May 1 inventory of 2.46 million head unchanged from last month and 1.2 percent lower than last year. In fact, the current inventory is only 2.1 percent above the recent low of 2.41 million head in May 2015, a low that goes back to 1997. Current Texas feedlot numbers are 20.1 percent lower than the all-time monthly inventory peak of 3.08 million head in February and March of 2001 and 18 percent lower than the more recent peak of 3 million head on feed in November 2011.
The number two cattle feeding state, Nebraska, has averaged much closer to Texas in recent years with the decline in Texas numbers. Nebraska monthly on-feed inventories have equaled or exceeded the Texas total several months in recent years and have averaged about 170,000 head less than Texas compared with previous years when Nebraska typically had about 700,000 head less cattle on feed than Texas on a monthly basis.
Nebraska’s current inventory of 2.45 million head is up 1.2 percent year over year but, like Texas, has grown relatively slowly in recent months. The current monthly total is just 10,000 head smaller than the Texas total. The current Nebraska feedlot inventory is 4.7 percent below the peak Nebraska monthly inventory of 2.57 million head in February and March 2012.
In contrast to the top two feedlot states, feedlot inventories in number three Kansas have grown aggressively in recent months. Year-over-year placement rates have been higher in Kansas compared with Texas and Nebraska in the past six months. The current Kansas feedlot inventory of 2.28 million head is 106 percent of one year ago and is the highest monthly total for the state since December of 2011. The all-time peak Kansas feedlot inventory was 2.67 million head in November 2001.
Number four feeding state Colorado has also grown rapidly in the past few months. The May 1 inventory total of 960,000 head is 6.7 percent higher than last year and is the largest monthly total for Colorado since April 2013. The record cattle feeding inventory in Colorado was 1.25 million head in November 2000 with a more recent peak of 1.13 million head in January 2012.
Iowa is the number five cattle feeding state with a current inventory of 680,000 head, up 6.3 percent from one year ago. Iowa feedlot inventories have grown rapidly in the past six months with monthly placements averaging nearly 20 percent higher year over year. This is the fastest growth in placements among the top five feedlot states and has pushed the current Iowa cattle on feed inventory to a record high for the data back to 1992.
Derrell S. Peel is an Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist. This originally appeared in the May 29, 2017, OSU Cow/Calf Corner newsletter.