Profit Tracker: Losses Exceed $300

February 17, 2016 01:22 PM

Last week’s $3 per cwt. decline in cash fed cattle prices dealt another cruel blow to feedyard closeouts. Cattle feeders saw their losses increase $54 per head last week, climbing to $318, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker. USDA’s 5-area direct cash price fell to $132.20.

Feedyards continue to work through cattle that were placed on feed when feeder cattle prices were much higher. Cattle marketed last week went into feedyards costing an average of $206.78 per cwt. as feeders, producing a total cost of finishing the cattle at $2,044 per head. Cattle placed on feed last week are projected to cost roughly $450 per head less to reach finish weight than last year, the bulk of that from lower feeder cattle prices, according to calculations by John Nalivka, president of Sterling Marketing, Vale, Ore.

Beef packers saw their margins decline $3 per head last week, leaving average profits at $29 per head. Packer margins are about $168 per head lower than last month.

Sterling Marketing estimates feedyards lost a cumulative unhedged $4.7 billion in 2015, with average weekly losses of $239.26 per head. That compares to an unhedged profit of $3.9 billion in 2014, and losses of $1.1 billion in 2013. 

A month ago cattle feeders were losing $387 per head, while a year ago feedyard closeouts were $77 in the red, according to Sterling Marketing. Feeder cattle represent 78% of the cost of finishing a steer.

A month ago beef packers were earning $197 for every animal processed, while a year ago packers were losing $99 per head, Sterling Marketing estimates.

Farrow-to-finish pork producers found profits of $1.65 per hog last week, a $3 per head improvement from the previous week, and $20 per head better than the $18 per head loss found a month ago.

Pork packers saw a $4 decline in profit margins to $12 per head. Negotiated prices for lean hogs were $65.10 per cwt. last week, a gain of $1.44 per cwt. from the previous week. Cash prices for fed cattle are $29 per cwt. lower than last year, and negotiated hog prices are $5 per cwt. higher than last year.

Sterling Marketing projects 2016 average cash profit margins for cow-calf producers at $237 per cow. Last year’s estimated average cow-calf margins were $429 per cow. Cow-calf profits for 2014 were estimated at $526 per cow.

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