2024 National Feeder and Stocker Receipts Down 6 percent from 2023

– Josh Maples, Assistant Professor & Extension Economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University

The number of feeder and stocker cattle sold during the first 19 weeks of 2024 was about 6 percent below the number sold during the same period in 2023 according to data from the USDA-AMS National Feeder and Stocker Cattle Summary. The combination of fewer cattle and  better pricing opportunities have led to some interesting patterns in the receipts data to start 2024.

There have been roughly 330 thousand fewer feeder and stocker cattle sold at auction so far in 2024 than in the same time period of 2023. Compared to the 5-year average (2018-2022), receipts in 2024 were down 3 percent (163 thousand head) year to date. This dataset includes auction, direct, and video/internet sales that are reported to USDA. It does not capture all feeder and stocker cattle transactions and the report notes that “receipts vary depending on the number of auctions reported.” Thus, it’s not perfect, but comparisons over time can be informative when considering current market dynamics to previous years.

Shown in the chart above, receipts were higher in February as producers appeared to take advantage of strong pricing opportunities rather than hold cattle longer. However, since late March, receipts have been lower than year-ago levels and lower than the five-year average. We are nearing the summer months when receipts seasonally decline before increasing again as we approach Fall.

The report also gives information about the mix of steers and heifers and weight ranges. The percentage of sales that were heifers has been the same so far in 2024 as it was in 2023 (43 percent). Cattle have tended to be slightly heavier with 63 percent of cattle sold at auction weighing above 600 pounds in 2024, compared to 60 percent in 2023.

Information gleaned from auction receipt totals this fall will be relatively more valuable this year to understand changes in the 2024 calf crop. Traditionally, the first estimate of the 2024 calf crop would be released in the mid-year USDA Cattle Inventory report. However, USDA-NASS recently announced the mid-year report would be discontinued for budget reasons. They will not be releasing 2024 calf crop estimates until the January 2025 report is released.