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Feedlot inventories hit new highs in US cattle industry


The US feedlot industry started 2024 on a high note, with the total inventory reaching 14.42 million head by January 1, a significant milestone reflecting the industry's growth and evolving dynamics. This increase has made feedlot inventory account for a historic 16.5% of the total cattle population in the country, a notable rise from 25 years prior. 

Feedlot capacities have also seen an upward trend, expanding to 17.1 million head and setting new benchmarks in the industry's capability to house and manage cattle. This expansion is not just about numbers; it reflects a strategic adaptation to market demands and the cyclical nature of cattle production. 

The Cattle on Feed report for February highlighted steady inventories and placements, suggesting a stable yet cautious market approach amidst external challenges like adverse weather conditions. The feedlot inventory's significant share of the total cattle inventory underscores the critical role feedlots play in the broader livestock economy. 

The relationship between feedlot inventory and total cattle on feed has remained consistent over the past 25 years, with monthly feedlot inventories typically representing 81-82% of the total. This stability is crucial for understanding market dynamics and planning for future supply needs. 

With feeder supplies outside of feedlots at their lowest since 1972 and the feedlot inventory constituting nearly 60% of these supplies, the industry faces a challenge in sustaining current inventory levels. The low ratio of feeder cattle to feedlot cattle highlights the need for strategic management and planning to navigate the potential decrease in feedlot inventories. 

As the US feedlot industry navigates these dynamics, it stands at the forefront of addressing the complexities of livestock management, market demands, and the sustainability of cattle production in an ever-changing agricultural landscape.

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