U.S. March cattle placements seen down 5.5 percent — poll

(Reuters) — The number of cattle placed in U.S. feedlots in March likely declined 5.5 percent from March 2014 with feedyards hesitant to bring in pricey calves that have

eroded their margins, according to analysts surveyed by Reuters.

In March, feedlots on average lost US$294.51 per head sold to meat companies, compared with a $337.77 loss in February, as calculated by Colorado-based Livestock Marketing Information Center.

Ranchers in some parts of the country are fattening cattle longer outside of feedlots as spring grazing pastures improve, which contributed to last month’s slowdown in placements, analysts said.

After several years of drought, more heifers are being retained to help rebuild the U.S. cattle herd that is estimated as the third smallest since 1952 at 89.8 million head, analysts said.

USDA will issue its April Cattle-On-Feed report on Friday. It will include the April 1 feedlot supply along with March placements and marketings.

Analysts, on average, estimated the April 1 feedlot cattle supply at 98.6 percent of a year earlier.

Cattle marketings, or livestock sold to packers, in March were forecast on average at 98.2 percent of a year ago. There was one more weekday to market cattle in March 2015 than in March 2014.

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