MANHATTAN, KAS. — Steer and heifer performance in early 2009 was improved compared to January 2008, according to Kansas State University’s "Focus on Feedlots" survey.

Average closeout weights for steers and heifers remained above a year ago in January while average daily gains and feed efficiency both improved compared to 2008’s, largely due to very good winter feeding conditions, the Livestock Marketing Information Center further relayed.

Although the costs of gains still remain high for current closeouts, head costs of grain for cattle placed this winter have finally started to decline.

The average closeout weight during January for steers was 1,359 lbs versus 1,322 lbs in 2007 and was 68 lbs heavier than the 2002-2006 average. Heifers closed out at a record average weight of 1,255 lbs in January, 42 lbs above last year and 6% above the prior five-year average. Placement weights for both steers and heifers were heavier than the year prior, which contributed somewhat to the heavier closeout weights in January, L.M.I.C. pointed out.

Feedlots reported steers sold in January were on feed an average of 149 days, four days less than 2008, while heifers were on feed an average 149 days, which was 23 days less than a year ago, according to the survey. 

Average daily gains were rather impressive in January, with steers posting an average daily gain of 3.62 lbs versus 3.44 lbs per day in 2008. Feedlots reported average daily gain for heifers at 3.38 lbs per day, well above last January’s 2.98 lbs per day. At the same time, the amount of feed needed per pound of gain in January for both steers and heifers was less than in 2008. 

Thus, feedlot performance was quite remarkable in January. Feedlots, however, reported a higher death loss for steers and heifers in January of 2009 compared to a year earlier.

As expected, feedlots reported higher costs of gain in January due to high feedstuff costs. The average cost of gain for steers sold in January was $89.54 per cwt versus $74.11 per cwt in 2008, while the cost of gain for heifers at $92.19 per cwt was nearly $14.00 per cwt above a year earlier.

When compared to the prior five-year average, the cost of gain this January was more than 50% higher for both steers and heifers.

Kansas's feedlots reported the average price of corn in mid-February at $4.42 per bu, $0.38 per bu lower than in 2008 and the lowest monthly price reported since a year ago. However, hay prices were quoted at $145.61 per ton, over $24 per ton above the prior year price. Looking ahead, those feedstuff costs suggest the feeding cost of gain for steers placed in February is $71.50 per cwt, a cost of gain not seen since late 2007.

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