Profit Tracker: Profits Near Triple-Digits

Cattle feeders turned a tidy profit for the second consecutive week. Average feedyard margins last week were $92 per head, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker, $40 better than the previous week. The gains came on a $3 rally in fed cattle prices for the second straight week. The 5-area fed cattle price was $114.20 per cwt.

The total cost of finishing a steer last week was $1,497, compared to $1,492 the previous week and $2,198 last year. The Beef and Pork Profit Trackers are calculated by Sterling Marketing, Vale, Ore.

Beef packer margins decreased $15 per head to $92. Packers earned an average of $26 per head during the same period a year ago.

A month ago cattle feeders were losing $48 per head, while a year ago losses were calculated at $480 per head. Feeder cattle represent 74% of the cost of finishing a steer, compared to 79% last year.

Farrow-to-finish pork producers lost $24 per hog last week, about $9 less than the week before. A month ago farrow-to-finish pork producers lost about $35 per head.

Pork packers saw their margins decline $7 per head to $47. Negotiated prices for lean hogs were $47.33 per cwt. last week, about $4 per cwt. higher. Cash prices for fed cattle are $9 per cwt. lower than last year and prices for lean hogs are $7 per cwt. lower.

Sterling Marketing president John Nalivka projects average cash profit margins for cow-calf producers at $144 per cow this year. In 2017, Nalivka projects cow-calf losses of $24. Last year's estimated average cow-calf margins were $432 per cow.