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May Cattle on Feed Down 3 Percent

By James Mitchell

USDA-NASS released the May Cattle on Feed report last Friday, providing us with the fifth data point of the year for cattle on feed numbers. According to the report, the number of cattle and calves on feed in feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 or more head was 11.6 million on May 1, 2023, 3.4 percent lower than the previous year. Overall, except for cattle placement numbers which we will discuss shortly, there were no major surprises in the report. Everyone expected the report to stick with the trend we have observed all year, declining cattle numbers across the board.


Overall, the United States cattle on feed inventory was 97% of the previous year. Most states showed a decrease in cattle on feed inventories compared to May 1, 2022. Feedlot inventories in Texas and Oklahoma were 96% and 91% of the previous year, respectively. Kansas feedlot inventories were 2% lower compared to last year. Cattle on feed inventories were 5% lower in Nebraska and 2% higher in Iowa. This year cattle on feed numbers are averaging 4% below last year’s inventories. Until now, feedlot inventories set the stage for grilling season beef production. Most recently, in the May WASDE, USDA expects second-quarter and third-quarter beef production to decline by 7% and 4%, respectively.

April’s Cattle Placements were lower than the average pre-report expectation, totaling 1.748 million head or 4% lower year over year. Placements of cattle weighing less than 700 pounds totaled 605,000 head and were 5% percent below last year’s total. Feedlot placements of heavier feeder cattle totaled 1.143 million head, a 4% decline compared to the previous year. Recall feedlot placements in March were only 1% lower than a year ago. Strong feeder cattle prices and drought likely pulled some cattle forward that were available for placement in April.

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