U.S. feedlot cattle placements bigger than expected

(USDA.gov via Flickr)

Chicago | Reuters — Ranchers drove 13.9 per cent more cattle into U.S. feedlots in November than the same time a year ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on Friday.

The result exceeded the high end of the range of analysts’ forecasts, partly fueled by low feed prices in the wake of this fall’s bumper U.S. corn and soybean harvest, said analysts.

They also cited dryness in parts of the U.S. Northern Plains that landed cattle in states where feed is more plentiful.

“The big numbers for placements were in Corn Belt states, with the whopper being Minnesota up 37 per cent from a year ago,” said U.S. Commodities president Don Roose.

November’s larger-than-expected placement increase could weigh on cattle prices this spring, while keeping beef costs low for consumers, said analysts.

USDA’s report showed November placements at 2.099 million head, up 13.9 per cent from 1.843 million a year earlier. It was above the average forecast of 1.948 million.

The government put the feedlot cattle supply as of Dec. 1 at 11.516 million head, up 8.1 per cent from 10.652 million a year ago. Analysts, on average, forecast a 6.7 per cent rise.

USDA said the number of cattle sold to packers, or marketings, were up 3.2 per cent in November from a year ago to 1.844 million head.

Analysts had projected a gain of three per cent from 1.787 million last year.

On Friday USDA’s monthly cold storage report showed total November beef stocks at 487 million lbs., down four per cent from October and down eight per cent from a year earlier.

November beef stocks dropped 20 million lbs. from the month before, the largest decline for November since 1998, confirms industry talk that retailers were heavily focused on advertising beef, said Allendale Inc. chief strategist Rich Nelson.

— Theopolis Waters reports on livestock markets for Reuters from Chicago.

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