Cattle feeders lost an average of $30 per head last week, $25 more than the week before, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker. Packer margins improved $56 to $232 per head.
The beef cutout increased $3.59 per cwt., closing at $208.20. The cost of finishing a steer last week was calculated at $1,560, which is $158 higher than the $1,402 a year ago. The Beef and Pork Profit Trackers are calculated by Sterling Marketing Inc., Vale, Ore.
A year ago cattle feeders were earning $127 per head. Feeder cattle represent 73% of the cost of finishing a steer compared with 73% a year ago.
Farrow-to-finish pork producers saw their margins slip $12 per head to a negative $40 per head. Lean carcass prices traded at $44.56 per cwt., $6 per cwt. lower than the previous week, and $29 lower than two weeks ago. A year ago pork producers earned an average of $78 per head. Pork packer margins averaged a profit of $41 per head last week.
Cash prices for fed cattle are steady with the same week last year. Lean hog prices are about $34 per cwt. lower than last year.
Sterling Marketing president John Nalivka projects cash profit margins for cow-calf producers in 2018 will average $128 per cow. That would be $30 per head less than the estimated average profit of $158 for 2017. Estimated average cow-calf margins were $173 in 2016, and $438 per cow in 2015.
For feedyards, Nalivka projects an average profit of $57 per head in 2018, which would be $166 less than the average of $236 per head in 2017. Nalivka expects packer margins to average about $145 per head in 2018, up from $120 in 2017.
For farrow-to-finish pork producers, Nalivka projects 2018 profit margins will average a loss of $1.72 per head, compared to profits of $21 in 2017. Pork packers are projected to earn $15 per head in 2018, down from $25 profit per head in 2017.