Beef Packer Margins Total $182 Million Last Week

Beef packer margins climbed another $55 per head last week. ( Wyatt Bechtel )

Beef packer margins climbed another $55 to a per head total of $287 last week, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker. Multiplied by the 636,000 cattle processed last week suggests packers earned $182 million, while feedyards saw their margins improve from a $30 loss the previous week to $15 per head profits. Cash cattle prices declined $1 per cwt. to an average of $109.

The beef cutout increased $3.95 per cwt., closing at $212.15. The cost of finishing a steer last week was calculated at $1,501, which is $81 higher than the $1,420 a year ago. The Beef and Pork Profit Trackers are calculated by Sterling Marketing Inc., Vale, Ore.

A year ago cattle feeders were earning $69 per head. Feeder cattle represent 74% of the cost of finishing a steer compared with 74% a year ago.

Farrow-to-finish pork producers saw their margins fall another $8 per head to a negative $48 per head. Lean carcass prices traded at $40.84 per cwt., $3.72 per cwt. lower than the previous week, and $26.55 lower than a month ago. A year ago pork producers earned an average of $28 per head. Pork packer margins averaged a profit of $42 per head last week.

Cash prices for fed cattle are $2 per cwt. higher than the same week last year. Lean hog prices are about $31 per cwt. lower than last year.

Sterling Marketing president John Nalivka projects cash profit margins for cow-calf producers in 2018 will average $132 per cow. That would be $26 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 $58 per head in 2018, which would be $166 less than the average of $224 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 $1 per head in 2018, compared to profits of $21 in 2017. Pork packers are projected to earn $17 per head in 2018, down from $25 profit per head in 2017.