Among feedyards with 1,000+-head capacities, Texas, Kansas and Nebraska -- in that order -- traditionally top the states in feeding numbers, writes Darrell Mark, University of Nebraska economist, at www.lmic.info/. But severe winter weather, high corn prices and an abundance of ethanol-production byproducts is shifting feeder numbers north in recent months.

February cattle-on-feed data, for example, has Nebraska with the second-largest number of cattle on feed in lots with 1,000+ head capacities, a 24% jump in numbers since September 2006, Mark says. In addition, Iowa and South Dakota increased on-feed numbers by 17% and 48%, respectively, during the same time period.

Meanwhile, Texas' inventory fell 5%, and Kansas and Oklahoma rose less than 2% in the face of a 6.7% average increase across the nation during this five-month period.

Mark cites several reasons for the northerly shift:

  • December-February winter storms in the Southern Plains substantially lowered feeding performance, resulting in fewer southern cattle placed on feed.

    "While storms have recently impacted cattle feeders on the Northern Plains, this will not likely be evident in placement numbers until the March Cattle On Feed report is released later this month," Mark says.

  • The average corn price in the Texas Triangle area was $3.73/bu. from September-February -- 54ยข/bu. higher than the average Omaha, NE, price during that time. Mark says Southern Plains feeders typically can afford to feed higher-priced corn (transportation cost factors) because winter feedlot performance exceeds that in the Northern Plains, Mark says. That performance didn't materialize this winter.

  • Cattle feeders in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota have more access to wet and dry distillers grains from nearby ethanol-production facilities. These states can't only lay in these products with fewer shipping costs but they typically provide significant improvements in feeding performance, Mark says.

    "The extent to which these geographic shifts in cattle numbers will continue or become permanent isn't yet known," Mark says. "Certainly, long-term weather conditions will eventually return to the Southern Plains to have performance advantages for winter feeding. And improvements in transportation logistics or construction of ethanol plants in the Southern Plains could enable those feeders to reap some of the benefits of feeding ethanol byproducts."
-- Livestock Marketing Information Center