Profit margins for both cattle feeders and beef packers declined last week, with feeders maintaining a slight edge. Feedyard closeouts dipped $22 per head to $82, while packer margins fell $21 per head to $66, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker.
For the week ending Jan. 18, cash cattle sold for an average of $124 per cwt., while the beef cutout closed the week at $211.60. The Beef and Pork Profit Trackers are calculated by Sterling Marketing Inc., Vale, Ore.
A year ago cattle feeders were earning an average of $171 per head. Feeder cattle represent 71% of the cost of finishing a steer compared with 72% a year ago.
Farrow-to-finish pork producers saw their margins improve $1 per head, but still saw losses of $11. Lean carcass prices traded at $53.91 per cwt., $0.85 per cwt. better than the previous week, and $7.20 better than a month ago. A year ago pork producer margins were a positive $30 per head. Pork packer margins averaged a profit of $25 per head last week.
Sterling Marketing president John Nalivka projects cash profit margins for cow-calf producers in 2018 will average $162 per cow. That would be steady compared to the $164 estimated average profit for 2017. Estimated average cow-calf margins were $176 in 2016, and $438 per cow in 2015.
For feedyards, Nalivka projects an average profit of $41 per head in 2019, which would be $17 better than the average of $24 per head in 2018. Nalivka expects packer margins to average about $159 per head in 2019, about $10 less than in 2018.
For farrow-to-finish pork producers, Nalivka projects an average loss of $2 pere head in 2019, as compared with an average profit of $1 per head in 2018. Pork packers are projected to earn $22 per head in 2019, about $2 more than the $20 per head profits of 2018.