STILLWATER — The numbers are in and the United States has plenty of feedlot cattle on hand to kick off 2018.

U.S. beef cattle currently plentiful in the marketplace

Where is the beef? Here, there and pretty much everywhere to start off 2018. (Photo by Todd Johnson)

The Jan. 1 inventory of cattle in feedlots was 11.49 million head, 108.3 percent of year earlier levels. This is an increase of 884,000 head compared to Jan. 1, 2017, and is the largest January on-feed total since 2012.

“For the 12 months of 2017, feedlot placements totaled 23.5 million head, up 1.91 million head – an 8.8 percent increase – from 2016,” said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist. “Total 2017 marketings increased 1.03 million head year over year, up 4.9 percent.”

Closing out last year, December placements increased 0.8 percent year over year, slightly more than most analysts expected. This followed large year-over-year placement increases in September, October and November.

Peel said December marketings were equal to expectations, down 1.4 percent from the previous year. “December had one less business day compared to a year earlier, thus daily average marketings were still larger year over year as it was every month in 2017,” he added.

In the last five months of 2017, feedlot placements exceeded marketings by 506,000 head. These additional cattle will be marketed in the first four to six months of 2018.

“December feedlot placements consisted of an unusual pattern of weights with increased year-over-year placements of feeders weighing less than 600 pounds and more than 1,000 pounds,” Peel said. “Placements of typical weights of animals weighing 600 to 900 pounds were down 4.7 percent year over year.”

Beginning in 2017, monthly cattle-on-feed reports include more detail on placements of feeder cattle weighing 800 pounds or more, with data now showing 800-899, 900-999 and more than 1,000 pounds placement categories.

Over all 12 months of 2017, feedlot placements of animals weighing 1,000 pounds or more represented 4.3 percent of total placements, while those weighing 900 to 999 pounds represented 8.9 percent and those weighing 800 to 899 pounds accounted for 21.8 percent of total placements.

“Cattle weighing 700 to 799 pounds comprised the largest group at 24.9 percent,” Peel said. “Placements of feeders from 600 to 699 pounds accounted for 18.5 percent of the total placements while those weighing less than 600 pounds were 21.5 percent of the total.”

Peel said placements of cattle weighing less than 600 pounds likely includes many dairy calves and seasonally some beef calves. Total placements of feeders weighing less than 600 pounds increased 11.4 percent in 2017 over 2016, including a 30 percent year-over-year jump in November that was attributed to lack of wheat pasture in the Southern Plains.

The latest cattle-on-feed report also included the breakdown of steers and heifers on feed. Steers on feed as of Jan. 1 were 7.34 million head, up 4.5 percent year over year. Heifers on feed were 4.15 million head, up 15.9 percent over one year ago. The number of steers on feed was the largest since 2008 while the number of heifers on feed was the largest since 2012.

“The heifer feedlot inventory swelled sharply in the last half of 2017 and indicates slowing heifer retention,” Peel said. “However, it should be noted that the ratio of steer-to-heifer slaughter in 2017 was still well above long-term average levels, meaning growing heifer feedlot inventories relative to steers is really just getting back to more typical levels of heifer feeding after sharp reductions due to drought and herd expansion since 2012.”

Cash receipts for Oklahoma cattle average more than $3.7 billion annually, according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service data.