U.S. feedlots unexpectedly bought 4.7 percent fewer cattle in March than a year earlier, as herds declined in Texas, Oklahoma and Washington state, a government report showed.
Feedlots placed 1.795 million head of cattle last month, compared with 1.884 million in March 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a report. Fourteen analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News said that placements would climb 0.4 percent, based on the average estimate.
The feedlot herd totaled 10.86 million as of April 1, 0.6 percent less than a year earlier. Analysts projected the inventory on feed to rise 0.2 percent.
Feedlot operators typically buy year-old animals that weigh 500 pounds to 800 pounds, called feeders. The cattle are fattened on corn for about four to five months until they weigh about 1,300 pounds, when they are sold to meatpackers.
Feedlots sold 1.66 million animals to meatpackers last month, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier and the lowest for March in data going back to 1996, according to USDA. Analysts projected a 3.4 percent drop, on average.