In this weekly Commodities Watch column, John T. Barone, president and commodities analyst for Market Vision Inc., offers a snapshot of the state of commodities for restaurants.

The drop in both overall placement numbers and in the number (and percentage) of heifers on feed coincides with improving pasture conditions in some parts of the country — which may indicate that ranchers are beginning to hold back some breeding stock for potential herd expansion.

Friday’s USDA cattle report showed feedlot inventories at 10.37 million head, decreasing 3.2 percent from a year ago. New feedlot placements in June were 1.59 million head, falling 5 percent from a year ago. The number of heifers on feed totaled 3.78 million head, decreasing 4 percent from 2012.

June milk production was a bit higher than expected, increasing 1.5 percent from a year ago. However, July milk output is being inhibited by record-high temperatures that are likely already offsetting June’s gains. Long-range weather forecasts point to more high temperatures and the probability of further milk production losses in August.

Contact John T. Barone at jbarone@mktvsn.com.