Feedlots in U.S. Placed Fewer Cattle in November, USDA Says

U.S. feedlots added 3.1 percent fewer cattle last month than they did a year earlier, as the total inventory slumped to the second-lowest for Dec. 1 on record, the Department of Agriculture said.

Feedlots placed 1.882 million head of cattle in their herds last month, down from 1.943 million in November 2012, the USDA said today in a report released in Washington. Fourteen analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News said that placements would be little changed, based on the average estimate. Forecasts ranged from an increase of 4.2 percent to a drop of 5 percent.

The feedlot herd totaled 10.725 million as of Dec. 1, a decline of 5.5 percent from a year earlier and the second-lowest for that date since the series began in 1996, according to USDA. Analysts expected the inventory on feed to be down 4.8 percent. U.S. imports of Mexican feeder cattle as of Dec. 17 are down 35 percent this year compared with a year earlier, USDA data show.

“There was one less placement and marketing day than last year,” Tim Petry, a livestock-market economist for North Dakota State University in Fargo, said in an e-mail before the report. “There were also fewer Mexican calves imported into the U.S.”

Feedlots sold 1.681 million animals to meatpackers last month, down 4.5 percent from a year earlier, the USDA said. Analysts expected a 5.4 percent decrease, on average. Last month had one fewer weekday than November 2012.

Feedlot operators typically buy year-old animals that weigh 500 pounds (227 kilograms) to 800 pounds, called feeders. The cattle are fattened on corn for about four to five months until they weigh about 1,300 pounds, when they are sold to meatpackers.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.