The USDA will release the results of the July 1 Cattle on Feed Report Friday afternoon. Ron Plain, an agricultural economist at the University of Missouri-Columbia, expects a smaller inventory of cattle in feedlots. He says marketings during the month of June were pretty close to a year ago, possibly down a fraction of 1%. However that is a bit deceiving.
"We had an extra slaughter day during the month of June," Plain said. "Actually on a daily basis it was down about 5% in fed cattle slaughter, which is kind of in line with the inventory numbers. But with an extra day of slaughter we ended up close to the June of '08 in total."
Placements are thought to be quite a bit lighter, perhaps 8% to 10% lighter than a year ago, which Plain says will pull the number of cattle on feed down to probably the lowest level since 1999.
"Placements have been down for several months now and it's a combination of red-ink on the part of cattle feeders and not very aggressively buying cattle to place on feed," Plain said. "And it's been a fairly wet year in a lot of country so that has provided extra grazing for cattle producers."
The current situation is that the number of cattle on feed has been below a year ago for about 15 months now and Plain says it is going to stay that way. But he says eventually that will tighten up the supply of beef and push prices up and hopefully produce a more profitable situation for the cattle industry.