The partial government shutdown has continued and is now holding the record for the longest in U.S. history. Monthly cattle on feed numbers were scheduled to to be released by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service on January 25, 2019. That survey-based report would reflect December feedlot marketings and placements (lots with a capacity of 1,000 head or more). It is unlikely the NASS Cattle on Feed publication will be released even if the government opens next week. Those reports take time to survey, collect, compile and release and the backlog is mounting.
LMIC has decided to move forward with estimates of Cattle on Feed this month. These are our best estimates based on the available data. LMIC’s prediction is that marketings have been slower relative to a year ago. This is one of the harder numbers to estimate this month, because of the lack of data. Actual weekly slaughter has not been released since December 8, 2018, and so this estimate relies on estimated daily slaughter. While the estimated slaughter data is better than no data, there is a large difference in precision. Estimated daily slaughter for steers and heifers are rounded to the nearest 1000 head, while actual slaughter is down to the number of head. Over the course of entire month, estimated versus actual can vary. With that being said LMIC estimates marketings are 99.5% of a year ago.
Placements are expected to be slightly larger than a year ago. Feeder cattle imports from Mexico and Canada were about 25,000 head higher year-over-year. Auction receipts showed strong volumes relative to a year ago, both pointing to more placements. The headwind to placements has been extremely muddy conditions in feedlots, especially in Kansas and Nebraska. LMIC estimates that placements during December were 100.6% of a year ago. This would be the highest December placement number since 2010, and would put the number of cattle on-feed as of January 1 st at to 102.1% of a year ago.