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Large Backlog Of Cattle Remain

Progress appears slow in erasing the backlog of cattle in feedyards. Based on USDA data, Len Steiner, Steiner Consulting Group, projects the number of cattle on feed 150-days or more on July 1 will be about 950,000 head. If accurate, that means the industry has only reduced the 150-day cattle by 30,000 head from June 1.

“Limited slaughter capacity in April and May created a significant backlog of market ready cattle and it looks like this backlog will continue through the summer,” Steiner says.

If the July 1 Cattle on Feed (scheduled for release July 24) report confirms Steiner’s estimate of 950,000 head of 150-day-plus cattle, it would be a 40% increase over the same month a year ago.

Last month’s Cattle on Feed report put the number of cattle with 150-days or more on feed at 971,000 head, a number that was 42% higher than the same month in 2019.

Steiner estimates June slaughter to be up 0.8%, but July slaughter will be down 0.5% due to one fewer slaughter day.

“Livestock producers have been forced to rethink feeding operations so as to slow down the rate of growth, an expensive and inexact process,” Steiner says. “The backlog and extra feeding time means cattle are coming to market heavier than normal for this time of year and grading trends have shifted significantly.”

Last week USDA reported average carcass weights at about 875 pounds, or 35 pounds (4.2%) higher than a year ago. Steiner says that is the equivalent of 21,000 more fed cattle coming to market this year than last.

“Slaughter last week was down 0.7% and yet fed beef production was up about 3.5% thanks to the increase in weights,” Steiner says.

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