Profit Tracker: Margins top $50/head

It took a $5 rally in fed cattle prices, but feedyard margins topped $50 per head last week, the Sterling Profit Tracker reveals. Profits were limited by a $33 per head increase in the cost of feeder cattle factored against last week's marketings.

USDA's 5-area cash price last week was $122.59, up $5.48 per cwt. The total cost of finishing cattle last week was $1,654, compared to $1,621 the previous week and $2,015 last year, according to Sterling Marketing, Inc., Vale, Ore.

Beef packer margins decreased $48 per head, resulting in average profits of $150 on every animal processed. Packer margins are about equal to last month.

A month ago cattle feeders were earning $212 per head, while a year ago profits were pegged at $85 per head, according to Sterling Marketing. Feeder cattle represent 72% of the cost of finishing a steer, compared to 76% last year.

A month ago beef packers were earning $146 for every animal processed, while a year ago packers were earning $141, Sterling Marketing estimates.

Farrow-to-finish pork producers earned $43 per hog last week, about $2 per head less than last week, and $14 per head better than a month ago.

Pork packers saw their margins improve to $4 per head compared with about breakeven the week before. Negotiated prices for lean hogs were $82 per cwt. last week, an decrease of $2 per cwt. from the previous week. Cash prices for fed cattle are $29 per cwt. lower than last year, and negotiated hog prices are $23 higher than last year.

Nalivka projects average cash profit margins for cow-calf producers at $177 per cow this year. Last year's estimated average cow-calf margins were $432 per cow.