Sort & Cull

Could Friday's Cattle on Feed Report be Wrong?

ShayLe Stewart
By  ShayLe Stewart , DTN Livestock Analyst
It's hard to believe Friday's Cattle on Feed report is correct when weekly feeder cattle summaries show sales receipts were significantly lower through the month of January. (DTN file photo by Jennifer Carrico)

In the high-tech, data-driven world we live in, it seems we are more focused on information and getting it quickly than we are on thoroughly absorbing the content and deciphering whether the data and conclusions drawn are sound and true.

Which is what we need to do with Friday's Cattle on Feed report. Before we even dive into what the report concluded and how it is initially affecting the market -- let's just discuss what we know to be true about January and what happened in the cattle market during the month.

We would be remiss to talk about anything regarding the cattle market through the month of January if we didn't first reflect on the brutally cold storm that passed through the countryside during that time. It was toward the end of the second week and through the third week of January that sale barns across most of the nation were shut down as brutally cold temperatures mixed with snow made it dangerous to transport cattle and halted normal business for nearly a week. Which is why I simply cannot believe Friday's Cattle on Feed report conclusions that placements totaled 1,792,000 head -- 93% of a year ago.

The report stated placements in January of 2024 were 144,000 head fewer than in January 2023 -- when placements totaled 1,936,000 head. Which doesn't match up with the data shown in the National Weekly Feeder and Stocker Cattle Summary shared every Monday. I went through the data and compared the weekly feeder cattle sales in 2024 to the receipts seen in 2023 and found these conclusions. For the week ending 1/6/2024, there were 126,500 head fewer cattle sold than during the same week in 2023. For the week ending 1/13/2024, there were 90,300 head fewer cattle sold than during the same week in 2023. And during the week ending 1/20/2024, there were 291,500 head fewer cattle sold than during the same week in 2023. Concluding that during that three week span alone, there were 508,300 head fewer cattle traded in 2024, than compared to the same time in 2023.

I know the individuals who work to configure the Cattle on Feed data have a difficult job and mean well, but I simply can't agree with the findings that they claim to be true for placements in the month of January. Thankfully the cattle market hasn't paid much attention, given its strong fundamental consensus. But if we weren't in such a bullish position, the cattle market could have just as easily traded lower even though the data may not be sound.


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