Mild Spring Helps Cattle Gain Weight

This year’s mild spring temperatures are doing more than allowing farmers to plant their crops earlier, they, along with heavier calf placements into feedlots, are turning up the dial on average daily gain.

Data collected by Kansas State University showed that average daily gain for steers in Kansas feedlots rose in April to 3.5 pounds from 3.43 pounds in March.  The move turned the seasonal decline in daily gains upward a month earlier than usual.

From the bottom, rate of gain usually rises into summer where it levels out before climbing again in the fall.  Last year, the summer peak occurred in August, while the average of the previous five years has it peaking in July.

The late-year top in gains usually takes place in November.

The average rise in average daily gain from the spring bottom to the temporary peak in summer is 14.5%.  Applying this to this year’s early bottom in March would imply a July rate of gain at 3.93 pounds in July.

However, that hardly seems likely, given the seasonal tendency to flatten a little above 3.7 pounds and remain below 3.9 pounds even at the fall peak.




An early upturn in average daily gain this year is coinciding with a rise in average slaughter weights for Kansas feedlots.  K-State data show that the final weight of steers bottomed in March at 1,367 pounds and rose to 1,375 pounds in April.

The normal annual bottom in slaughter weights occurs in April, although last year, it came in May.

From the bottom to the annual December high, the average monthly weight for Kansas slaughter cattle is 6.92%.  Applying this same percentage rise to this year’s spring bottom of 1,367 pounds, leads to an expectation of average December slaughter weights in Kansas of 1,461.6 pounds, well above even last year’s peak of 1,421 pounds.




And expectations for rising feed efficiency leading to rising, and possibly record, slaughter weights come in spite of seasonal tendencies for the average days on feed to decline.  The average peak in days on feed for cattle in Kansas feedlots is in April, although last year, it came in May.

On average, the number of days on feed for Kansas steers declines to 138 from 163.6, or 18.6%.  Applying the same percentage drop to April’s days on feed would produce an average low in feedlot time of 137.6 days.

However, last year’s pattern showed a strong tendency to extend feeding time.  A general decline during the period was interrupted by a counter-seasonal upturn in August and September.

And with lower feed costs and unprofitable margins, feedlots could elect to keep cattle on feed a bit longer than usual this spring and possibly mimic last year’s May peak.  The result could be a decline into November or December but at a higher level than even last year.




No bids were heard in cash cattle markets, but asking prices were near $163 per cwt on a live basis and $258 to $260 on a dressed basis.

Cattle traded Friday at $159 to $160 per cwt on a live basis, down $1 from the bulk of the previous week’s action, and at $252 to $253 on Nebraska’s dressed market, down $2 to $3 from the bulk of the previous week’s trade.

Beef prices Tuesday were down sharply with the USDA choice cutout at $251.59 per cwt, down $2.69, and the select cutout at $241.35, off $3.27.  Volume was very heavy with 160 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Monday was $223.06 per cwt, up $0.35.