Sort & Cull

Where are the Cattle?

ShayLe Stewart
By  ShayLe Stewart , DTN Livestock Analyst
After spring's lighter feedlot placements, one must wonder when those cattle that weren't placed this spring will eventually work their way into feedlot sector. (DTN file photo)

After last week's unveiling of the hefty Cattle Inventory and Cattle on Feed reports, cattlemen are left wading through the findings, and chewing through the unanswered questions.

One thing that keeps resurfacing through producers' minds is wondering where are all the cattle? Friday's Cattle on Feed Report was mostly uneventful, but it's the fine details that beg for attention and demand answers.

Earlier this spring, cattle placements were scarce -- lowest the industry has seen since 1996. March's placements were down 23%, April's placements were down 22%, May's placements were up 1% and the latest report shared that June's placements were up 2%. Deficits of 22% and 23% can't be offset by measly increases of 1% and 2% here and there. And when you consider that this year's slaughter has neglected to surpass the levels of a year ago, the problem becomes more pertinent. Estimated Weekly Meat Production shows that year-to-date levels have cattle slaughter in 2020 at 5.4% less than levels a year ago at this time.

The cattle marketing calendar that we know and have become accustomed to isn't what will unfold in the second half of 2020. Even though July's Cattle on Feed Report didn't seem to unveil anything noteworthy, in a time when the market is volatile and pressured from nearly everything, we must continue to be analytical of the fine details.

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ShayLe Stewart can be reached at


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