Cattle on Feed

Cattle on Feed Survey

The Cattle on Feed survey provides estimates of the number of cattle being fed a ration of grain, silage, hay and/or protein supplements for the slaughter market that are expected to produce a carcass that will grade select or better.

This survey is conducted in the 16 largest cattle-feeding states. About 2,000 known cattle feeders with a capacity of 1,000 or more head are enumerated. Feedlots with 1,000 or more head capacity represent about 85 percent of all fed cattle in the U.S. The 16 largest states represent 98 percent of U.S. cattle on feed in lots of 1,000 head or more capacity. Data are used in conjunction with Cattle Inventory data from January and July to obtain a measure of cattle on feed not included in the survey.

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Program Content

Cattle feeders provide data on inventory, placement into feedlots, marketing's from feedlots, and other disappearance from feedlots (deaths, returned to grazing, movement to another feedlot). They provide further information on placement by weight group, and inventory by class. Supplemental b n data about the number of lots by size group including lots with less than 1,000 head capacity are published annually in February.


The cattle on feed estimates provide an important near-term outlook for beef supplies coming to market. Current marketing's are heavily correlated with Livestock Slaughter. Cattle on feed placements by size group provide producers and analysts' information to forecast marketing's in a time period from approximately three to eight months following each monthly report.

Cumulative placements can be used with January and July Cattle reports to monitor feeder cattle supplies. Inventory by class can be used with January and July Cattle reports to monitor heifer retention in the cow/calf breeding herd.

Benefactors of these data series= range throughout the beef marketing channel. These would include cow/calf producers, backgrounding operations, cattle feeders, meat packers, wholesalers, and retailers. Cattle on feed inventories correlate with the utilization of feed grains, impacting these and other input suppliers.


The Cattle on Feed survey is conducted monthly. Inventory by class, which breaks inventory into steers, heifers, and cows and bulls is asked on a quarterly basis. Estimates are published for the 12 largest states and the U.S.


The reference date for the surveys is the first day of each month. Data collection occurs for 7 to 10 days beginning at the reference date. Due to the repeated contact of the respondents, convenience of reporting by respondents is critical to the success of the program. A considerable amount of time and effort is expended to tailor the data collection to the operation as well as coordinate the data collection with other surveys underway. Mail out/mail back data collection is used and emphasized as a cost effective and less burdensome method of data collection. Relative to other surveys, a substantial number of personal interviews are conducted for operators who prefer and request this method. There are many extremely large cattle feeders who play a key role in many states= cattle industries, and every effort is put forth to build a partnership with them as reporters. However, the primary method of collecting data is phone enumeration.

Phone enumerators utilize Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI), a sophisticated software which allows them to verbally maintain a conversation with the respondent while following the instrument flow and question text. Reported data are entered directly into an electronic format and the software performs simple consistency checks as well as checks against previously reported data which drastically reduce the need to make follow up contacts to the respondent.

Special Features

In February, estimates of the total number of operations feeding cattle and the number of operations by herd size are also made. The total inventory for each range of herd size is included.

Related Programs

Cattle Inventory
Meat Animals: Production, Disposition, and Income
Livestock Slaughter

Last Modified: 04/18/2024