It wouldn’t be a cattle on feed report without at least one surprise; USDA livestock analyst Shayle Shagam says last Friday’s report could indicate cattle producers are considering herd expansion.
March placements surprised some analysts at five percent lower than a year ago despite widespread drought in western states and high prices on cash cattle.
Shagam says in addition, 34 percent of cattle in feedlots as of April 1st were heifers or heifer calves – six percent fewer than last year.
Together he says that could mean expansion of the cattle herd is in the cards.
On the retail side of beef, prices are already 7.5 percent higher than last year, meaning even if producers are thinking about expanding, record-high prices will probably continue into the summer grilling season.