What a difference a year makes. Higher cash prices and lower feed costs have pushed cattle feeding profits past $250 per head, a margin unthinkable just a few months ago. Last year at the same time cattle feeders were losing $102.19 on every animal shipped.
Last week on average, cattle shipped from feedyards earned $253.80 per head, an increase of $44.26, according to John Nalivka, president of 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 $35.02 per head, an increase of $12.61.
Cash fed cattle prices last week averaged $146.60, while lean hog prices jumped $5.70 per cwt. to average $92.37.
While livestock feeders are enjoying a profitable stretch in early 2014, packers have seen margins that are rather ugly, especially on the beef side. The Sterling Beef Profit Tracker estimated beef packers lost an average of $81.19 on every steer and heifer slaughtered last week, which is only slightly better than last week’s average losses of $82.79 per head. The Sterling Pork Profit Tracker found margins in the black last week at $1.95 per head, which is a decline of $6.41 per head from the previous week.
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 $326.89, which is 34 percent lower than the $495.17 feedyards spent last year to finish an animal. Similarly, the cost of feeding a hog to finish weight declined 30 percent, to $92.04 per head compared to $130.36 last year.