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Cattle inventory declines

In this weekly Commodities Watch column, John T. Barone, president and commodities analyst for Market Vision Inc., offers a snapshot of the state of commodities for restaurants.

Friday’s USDA cattle report showed feedlot inventories at 10.91 million head, a decline of 5 percent from a year ago. New feedlot placements in March were 6 percent above a year ago, and marketing was 8 percent below last year.

That combination allowed cattle-on-feed numbers to remain slightly above last month's numbers. Even so, cumulative feedlot cattle placement over the last four months has been the smallest since 2003. A shift in weather patterns has brought much-needed rain to a large percentage of cattle country, and improved pasture conditions could further dampen feedlot placements this spring.

April cattle futures are at a seasonal peak at $126.35, and the June contract is trading at $121.30. Choice middle meat prices are near year-ago levels and on their way toward seasonal “grilling season” price peaks in June that could still approach last year’s record highs.

Contact John T. Barone at [email protected].

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