It's no surprise that more cattle are going on feed in the Midwest and Corn Belt because of feed cost and access. What may surprise some is the degree of this transition and the fact that western states are also picking up the feeding pace.

According to the April Cattle On Feed (COF) report issued by USDA Friday, 42% more cattle were placed on feed in April in California than in 2006, and 29% more in South Dakota (Table 1). On the other side of the coin, April COF numbers follow the same geographic gains and losses: As of April, South Dakota had 15% more COF than the same time a year earlier; Iowa had 7% more; California and Nebraska each had 4% more (Table 2). Meanwhile, numbers in Texas, Kansas and New Mexico were 8% or more below a year earlier.

Friday's numbers also underscore the current lack of industry expansion.

All told, the COF inventory May 1 was 3% below a year ago, though it's worth remembering that May placements this year are still the second most on record, though 2% less than a year ago. April placements were 3% less than last year and 5% less than in 2005.

In terms of weight, the April percentages are about identical to 2007 (Table 3).

Click to view Tables 1, 2, and 3 (Word).