The rate at which finished Kansas feedlot cattle gained weight while in the feedlot went down last month, a conclusion that can be correlated to the higher weights at which the young calves were placed on feed.
Monthly Kansas State University data show that the cattle that were sent to slaughter in May had a lower average daily gain than either last year or the previous five-year average. A graph of some of the data collected by K-State economists and compiled by the Livestock Marketing Information Center clearly shows the contra-seasonal pitch of average daily gain for steers.
The rate of gain for heifers during May is even worse at 2.96 pounds a day, compared with 3.08 pounds in April, 3.16 pounds a year ago and the previous five-year average of 3.072.
The data show that steers exiting Kansas feed yards in May only grew at an average 3.34 pounds a day. A year ago, similar cattle had gained 3.44 pounds a day, and the five-year average for the month is 3.37 pounds.
The graph also shows that average daily gains for marketed steers almost always bottoms in April as the last of the previous Fall’s calf placements are finally sold to packers. The presence of more yearling placements and fine weather produce greater rates of gain and a bottoming of the data by April.
CORRELATION TO HEAVIER PLACEMENTS
The K-State data gave no reason for May’s dip in feeding efficiency, but correlations to a trend toward heavier weights at the time cattle were placed on feed can be made.
USDA data show that nationally, the number of cattle placed on feed weighing more than 700 pounds were above a year ago and the five-year average in February and March and were above the average in January. An additional look at the data show a leaning toward placing cattle weighing more than 800 pounds.
Additional university data on cattle rates of gain show they tend to gain less per day yet eat more, than cattle at lower weights. Feed efficiency peaks at about 900 to 1,000 pounds, yet cattle are being slaughtered at heavier weights, so they spend more time lounging around the feed yard getting increasingly less efficient at turning feed into pounds.
There is a very strong reason to think feedlot rates of gain will increase. It’s unwise to think such a strong production seasonal can be ignored for long. But it’s already evident that this year’s low in daily feedlot efficiency is at least a month late.
CASH CATTLE MARKETS STEADY TO LOWER
Cash cattle markets last week were steady to $2 per cwt lower than the previous week with cattle trading in the Plains at mostly $148 on a live basis and $237 to $240 on a dressed basis. Trading was moderately active and was thought to have been sufficient to clear feedlot showlists.
Feedlot showlists this week could be about steady, depending on which estimate is viewed, which could be somewhat supportive to prices since packer buyers will be seeking to cover a full week’s worth of production.
Boxed beef prices were only slightly higher Monday, with the USDA reporting its choice cutout value at $253.22 per cwt, up $0.10, and its select cutout at $248.64, up $0.49.
Volume Monday was moderately light, with 86 loads of fabricated product being sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Friday was $229.06 per cwt, down $1.12, compared with the Aug settlement of $219.07.