Canfax released its Cattle on Feed Report this morning and for the first time since June of last year, cattle on feed in Saskatchewan and Alberta feedlots were reported lower than the previous year. Aggressive placements earlier last fall, a pick-up of feeder exports in the first quarter of this year, and the resulting higher marketing rate has taken its toll on cattle on feed numbers. Although cattle on feed numbers on April 1st are 1% higher than March 1st, this is a much smaller increase compared to the 5.2% and 3.3% increases seen in 2011, and 2010 respectively. The 968,626 head on feed on April 1st is the smallest since 2009, is 2.9% smaller than last year, and 2.2% smaller than the 5 year average. Marketings in March were 7% higher than last year’s very low marketings, but 21% smaller than 2010.
Placements took a significant hit in March, after being higher than a year ago 4 out of the 5 previous months. Placements were 21% lower than the 5 year average and the lowest March placements since 2005. After seeing somewhat surprisingly strong heifer placements over the past few months, heifer placements were down 24% in March compared to a year ago, while steer placements were only 12% lower than 2011. Heifer placements were down in all weight categories, while steers were down in all weight categories except for the 600-699 lb range. This cattle on feed report should be positive for the fed market going forward, as once the bulk of the calves are marketed in early summer, market ready supplies are going to tighten.