Volatility continued for cattle feeders last week, with margins improving more than $70 per head. Unfortunately, feeders are still losing nearly $113 per head and are projected to remain in the red for the rest of 2015, according to John Nalivka with Sterling Marketing, Inc.

Fed cattle were down $1 last week to $159.54 per hundredweight, nearly the cash price as last month. Feeder cattle were also lower, with 750 to 800 pound placements averaging $218.33, compared to $218.88 per hundredweight the previous week. Breakeven prices for placements were calculated at $163.15 per hundredweight, down 60 cents from the previous week. Against marketings, breakeven prices were down more than $6 per hundredweight to $168.22.

Packer margins climbed more than $22 per head last week, with packers earnings averaging $87.94 per head. Nalivka is projecting packer margins to remain positive through June and July before returning to the red in August and September. His forecast, however, shows them climbing back into positive territory to finish out the year. The beef cutout value was $1 higher last week to $260.47 per hundredweight.

Farrow-to-finish margins were higher again last week, reaching $31.23 per head profits, compared to $28.12 per head the previous week, according to the Sterling Pork Profit Tracker. Lean hogs were lower, falling nearly $1 to $81.69 per hundredweight, compared to $82.65 the previous week.

Pork packer margins improved last week, with losses averaging just 42 cents per head compared to $10.37 per head losses the previous week. The pork cutout value finished the week at $86.94 per hundredweight, up from $83.13 the previous week.

The Sterling Beef Profit Tracker for the week ending May 23:

  • Average feeder margins: -$112.78 per head.
  • Average beef packer margins: $87.94 per head.

The Sterling Pork Profit Tracker for the week ending May 22:

  • Average farrow-to-finish margins: $31.23 per head.
  • Average pork packer margins: -$0.42 per head.

The Sterling Beef and Pork Profit Trackers are produced by Sterling Marketing Inc. and John Nalivka, president, Vale, Ore., and are published weekly by Drovers/CattleNetwork, and PorkNetwork.