Kansas Feedlots Gain Efficiency

Kansas feedlots, and likely those in other states, are getting more efficient, according to data collected by Kansas State University agricultural economists.

Feedlots are working through their inventory of that have been there a long time, thus improving the pounds of feed to pounds of gain ratio.  The number of head sold to packing plants per feed yard in August remained relatively stable at 4,055 head, compared with 4,100 in July.  What makes this notable is the jump in July marketings from June’s decline.

The number of head marketed per feedlot in the monthly KSU survey usually peaks in July and drops sharply from there.  Last year, the peak came in June.

While feedlot marketings likely will drop in September, the number is just as likely to remain above last year and the previous five-year average.




It is no surprise to see that the KSU feedlot data showed the final weights of steers and heifers were record high in August as they have been above last year since April and above the 2009-2013 average all year.  Weekly USDA data in September shows no change in the trend toward very heavy slaughter animals.

However, if feedlots are backed up with potentially slaughter-ready cattle, marketing weights can be expected to climb until the backlog is cleaned up.  And this is precisely what is being shown in the data.




The number of days the August-marketed cattle spent at the feed yard is declining seasonally, but at a much higher level than the 2009-2013 average.  KSU data show that the average number of days on feed tends to peak in April as the weather warms and cattle use less of their feed to maintain body temperatures.

Last year, the peak was late, coming in May as feedlots began holding cattle back from sale to the packer to add extra weight.  A secondary peak was seen in September.

This year’s peak in the number of days marketed cattle spent on feed also came in May.  It shows no sign of a fall peak, though, and is more bent on following the average trend lower.




Because feedlot cattle are spending less time on feed, the average daily gain rose sharply in August, the KSU data showed.  It still is below last year and the previous five-year average, but the difference is far less.

The seasonal tendencies for average daily gain to rise over the summer are strong and were pulled lower this year by the presence of the very large cattle, which convert feed to pounds at a lower rate.  But the seasonal can’t be ignored entirely, and July’s flattening of the feed efficiency had to be only temporary.

However, average daily gain may not make it back to the average this year, since feedlots still have very heavy cattle to sell.  Plus, the seasonal tendency to flatten through September may cap gains in feed efficiency into October.




Cash prices continued to plunge Thursday, even though the volume of trade was painfully scattered.  Trades were reported this week at $116 to $124 per cwt on a live basis, down $10 to $12 from last week.  On a dressed basis, cattle have traded at $188 to $190, down $12 to $14.

The USDA reported lower boxed beef prices again Thursday with its choice cutout down $1.07 per cwt at $207.55 and select off $0.99 at $203.21 with 144 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $188.93 per cwt, down $0.94.  This compares with the Oct settlement Thursday of $177.40, down $0.77.