Profit Tracker: Profits Remain Despite Price Decline

Feedyard closeouts took a hit from last week’s $3 per cwt. decline in cash prices, but average margins remain above $77 per head. The 5-area direct cash price slipped to $117.36 per cwt., while break evens held relatively steady at $111.78, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker.

The cost of feeder cattle calculated against last week’s marketings held steady while feed costs increased $7 per head, according to the weekly average calculations.

Beef packer margins declined $3 per head to average $96. The beef cutout held steady at $203 per cwt. The Beef and Pork Profit Trackers are calculated by Sterling Marketing Inc., Vale, Ore.

Average feed costs totaled $283 per head, while cattle placed on feed last week have a projected breakeven of $114 per cwt.

The cost of finishing a steer last week was calculated at $1,556 per head, which is $58 more than the $1,498 a year ago. A month ago cattle feeders were earning $29 per head, while a year ago profits were calculated at $92 per head. Feeder cattle represent 74% of the cost of finishing a steer, compared to 75% last year.

Farrow-to-finish pork producers earned an average of $6 per head last week, an improvement of $3 per head from the previous week. Lean carcass prices traded at $61.26, an improvement of $0.68 per cwt. from the previous week. A year ago pork producers lost an average of $10 per head. Pork packer margins totaled $39 per head last week, steady with the week before.

Cash prices for fed cattle are $3 higher than the same week a year ago. Lean hog prices are about $8 per cwt. higher than last year.

Sterling Marketing president John Nalivka projects cash profit margins for cow-calf producers in 2017 will average $143 per cow. That would be $34 per head less than the estimated average profit of $177 for 2016. Estimated average cow-calf margins were $438 per cow in 2015.

For feedyards, Nalivka projects an average profit of $232 per head in 2017, which compares favorably with average losses of $4.25 per head in 2016. Nalivka expects packer margins to average about $119 per head in 2017, up from $114 in 2016.

For farrow-to-finish pork producers, Nalivka projects 2017 profit margins to average $20 per head, compared to $5 per head last year. Pork packers are projected to earn $25 per head in 2017, up slightly from $24 profit per head in 2016.