Higher prices for fed cattle last week helped cattle feeding margins improve. After losing more than $212 per head two weeks ago, margins, though still in the red, improved more than $40 per head to negative $171.82.

The 5-Area direct price increased nearly $2.20 per hundredweight last week and averaged $163.45. While prices have come down from highs late last year, cash prices are more than $11 per hundredweight higher than they were in late March 2014. Feeder cattle prices were down last week, falling to $207.07 per hundredweight for 750 to 800 pound placements. Feeder steer prices account for more than 81 percent of the relative feeding cost against current week marketings, according to Sterling Marketing, Inc. Last week’s breakeven prices were down for both placements and marketings, with placement breakevens projected at $157.32 per hundredweight and marketing breakevens calculated at $176.67 per hundredweight.

Beef packer margins continued to erode last week, falling to negative $47.82 per head, compared to negative $33.45 per head the previous week. The beef cutout value was $245.86, compared to $246.86 the previous week.

Farrow-to-finish margins dropped last week, falling to negative $15.46 per head, according to the Sterling Pork Profit Tracker. Lean hogs were down again, falling to $60.62 per hundredweight, compared to $63.85 the previous week.

Pork packer margins improved last week, averaging $5.04 per head compared to negative $1.92 the previous week. The pork cutout value finished the week at $68.37 per hundredweight, up from $68.31 the previous week.

The Sterling Beef Profit Tracker for the week ending March 21:

  • Average feeder margins: -$171.82 per head.
  • Average beef packer margins: -$47.82 per head.

The Sterling Pork Profit Tracker for the week ending March 20:

  • Average farrow-to-finish margins: -$15.46 per head.
  • Average pork packer margins: $5.04 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.