UPDATE 1-U.S. Plains feedlot cattle suffer through blizzard

Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:41pm EST

* Feedlot cattle lost up to 100 lbs each over past week

* Two storms in one week led to stress on cattle

* Snow was wet and more dangerous to cattle than dry snow (Adds fresh analyst quote, updates CME live cattle futures prices.)

By Sam Nelson

CHICAGO, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Cattle in the vast U.S. High Plains region were stressed by this week's severe blizzard, leading to big weight losses and boosting Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) live cattle futures prices, feeders and livestock experts said on Wednesday.

The storm dumped up to 20 inches of wet snow in some areas, accompanied by winds approaching 80 miles per hour.

"The cattle we weighed yesterday were 70 to 100 pounds lighter than they would have been before the storm. There is no question there will be a tremendous amount of tonnage lost over the next month," said Johnny Trotter, president of Bar-G Feedyard in Hereford, Texas.

Hereford is about 40 miles south of Amarillo, Texas, in the heart of the Texas Panhandle. It is the largest cattle feeding and beef processing region in the United States and the area hit hardest by the blizzard, referred to as Rocky by some media.

"We're just now getting reports in, they've been busy feeding but so far we're hearing about a 20 to 40 pound loss on average, depending on the extent of the storm," said Jim Brett Campbell, spokesman for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association.

"We'll have a better idea at the end of the week, when the showlists come in."

The storm was extremely harsh at its zenith on Monday, bearing cold and wet snow, but it was short-lived, both a curse and a blessing to feedlot owners and operators in the Plains States.

"It could have been a lot worse but cattle really suffered," Trotter said. "There was blowing snow for 18 hours and 4- to 6-foot drifts, this is as tough as I've ever seen."

Bar-G Feedyards has a cattle feedlot capacity of 125,000 head, Trotter said about average size for the Plains feedlot population.

"Feedlot cattle are all outdoors, they can take a cold and dry snow but this snow was cold and wet. They burn more energy to stay warm rather than put on weight," said Ron Plain, professor of agricultural economics at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri.

"They don't feel like moving around or feel like eating, they're just more uncomfortable in a wet snow rather than a dry snow," he said.

Muleshoe, Texas, was on the south edge of the blizzard and Shuck Donnell, general manager of Coyote Lake Feedyard Inc, said his feedlot was not hit as hard but cattle still lost weight.

"We weighed a few yesterday and they were about 30 pounds light," Donnell said.

"We had about 4 to 5 inches of snow and the wind blew like crazy but north of here around Hereford it was a lot worse. We had no death losses and we were able to feed," he said.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) live cattle futures were trending higher on Wednesday due to firm wholesale beef markets and concerns about reduced beef output from the two storms that slammed into the Plains in the past week.

"They're thinking cash cattle will be higher this week after the two storms. They were bad storms and are very much having an impact," said Jim Clarkson, a broker for A&A Trading Inc.

Gains were restrained on investor caution ahead of the U.S. budget deadline on Friday that some fear may result in cutbacks and a slowdown in the beef processing industry.

"I'm surprised cattle futures aren't up more than they are given the storm out there and the weight loss," said Dennis Smith, a broker for Archer Financial.

CME February live cattle futures were up 1.275 cents per lb at 128.550 cents per lb and April live cattle were up 0.575 cent per lb at 129.875 cents per lb.

The storm also slowed the number of cattle moving to processing plants.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the number of cattle slaughtered in the United States on Tuesday was an estimated 102,000 head, down from 121,000 a week ago and down from 125,000 a year ago. (Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Andrew Hay)