Feedlot Statistics


   There are likely several readers of this article who are not familiar with key feedlot statistics or at a minimum are not familiar with the averages of those statistics. Thus, the purpose of this article is to bring that information to the lay person without putting them to sleep in the first couple of paragraphs.
   Variability exists in feedlot statistics based on time of year, feeding region, type of animal being fed, and several other factors. For the purpose of this article, data collected through the Focus on Feedlots (FOF) program at Kansas State University (KSU) will be used to discuss final weights, days on feed, average daily gain, feed efficiency, and feeding costs of both steers and heifers. 
   The best place to start the discussion may be with the live animal weight at harvest. Based on KSU FOF data, the five year average (2012-2016) live harvest weight of steers ranged from a low of 1,345 pounds for cattle harvested in April to 1,431 pounds for cattle harvested in December. In 2017, steer final weights ranged from an average of 1,332 pounds in June to an average of 1,429 pounds for cattle harvested in November. The five year average (2012-2016) of heifer data shows a similar trend with a low of 1,227 pounds in April and a high of 1,273 pounds in January. In 2017, average heifer final weights ranged from 1,202 pounds in July to 1,292 pounds in December.
   It is obvious heifer finished weights are lower than steer weights, but the seasonality of weights increasing and decreasing is not fully apparent. Finished cattle weights have a seasonal pattern to them that is often determined by the weight at which they are placed in the feedlot, the time of year they are placed in the feedlot and the weather conditions during that time, and the number of days the cattle are on feed. Weights generally hit their annual low for cattle harvested in the spring months due to those cattle going through the harsh winter months and then increase into the November through January time period before declining.
   Average daily gain (ADG) has a similar seasonality to final weights with the trough appearing on cattle harvested in the spring months and the apex for cattle harvested in late fall and early winter. From 2012 to 2016, the range of ADG for steers ranged from 3.4 pounds per day (April) to 3.9 pounds per day (December) while heifer ADG ranged from 3.1 (April) to 3.5 (December) pounds per day. In 2017, steer ADG ranged from 3.2 (May) to 3.8 (October) pounds per day while heifers ranged from 3.0 (May) to 3.5 (December) pounds per day.
   The average number of days cattle are on feed generally has a seasonal pattern similar to finished weights and ADG with the peak number of days occurring in the spring months and shortest number of days for cattle coming off feed in the fall months. However, the number of days on feed can be significantly impacted by current and expected prices in the future. If prices are expected to be higher in a few weeks then feedlot managers may hold cattle a little longer and the opposite is true for when prices are expected to be lower a few weeks down the road.    From 2012 to 2016, steers in the FOF program averaged a high of 167 days on feed for those harvested in May and a low of 151 days for steers harvested in November. Heifers ranged from an average of 147 days (October) to 163 days (May) over that same time period. Some cattle may be on feed 180 to 210 days depending on their placement weight.
   Lastly, feed efficiency is also a key metric which feeds into cost of gain. From 2012 to 2016, steers had an average feed efficiency as low as 5.86 pounds of feed (dry basis) per pound of gain (June) to 6.24 pounds of feed per pound of gain (March). Heifers ranged from 6.15 (June) to 6.41 (March) over the same time period. During that time period steer feeding costs per hundredweight ranged from $91 (December) to $102 (March) while heifers averaged $4 to $5 per hundredweight higher costs. In the past two years, feeding costs have ranged from $72 to $80 for steers and $75 to $84 for heifers. ∆
   DR. ANDREW P. GRIFFITH: Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Tennessee
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