Record-high cash fed cattle prices helped boost cattle feeding margins over $280 per head last week. Top prices in the Midwest reached $152.50 last week, leaving the USDA five-area average at $151.07 per cwt. Average cattle feeding margins reached $284.85, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker. A year ago cattle feeders were losing $52 on every animal shipped.
Beef packers saw average losses of $80.64 last week, according to the report, compiled by John Nalivka, Sterling Marketing, Inc., Vale, Ore. Nalivka tracks prices and feeding costs for both cattle and hogs in a weekly summary called the Sterling Profit Tracker. Hog feeding margins were estimated at $49.81 per head last week, an increase of $14.79. Lean hog prices jumped $6.33 per cwt. to average $98.70.
While livestock feeders are enjoying a profitable stretch in early 2014, packers have seen margins that are rather ugly, especially on the beef side. Beef packer losses have exceed $80 per head the past two weeks, while pork packing margins have hovered near breakeven.
Average feed costs are down significantly for livestock feeders compared to last year. Nalivka estimates the average cost of feed for cattle marketed last week was $326.29, which is 32 percent lower than the $479.00 feedyards spent last year to finish an animal. Similarly, the cost of feeding a hog to finish weight declined 33 percent, to $89.86 per head compared to $134.08 last year.