The cattle market got a cold dose of reality last week with markets dropping throughout the industry the week ending December 6. Starting with feedlot margins, last week producers earned $44.96 per head, compared to $144.20 the previous week and nearly $210 per head at this time last month. Feeding margins were within 50 cents of last year at this time.

Cash prices, which have been steadily trending upward topping $171 per hundredweight, fell to $166.77 last week, according to the Sterling Profit Tracker. Fed cattle prices were 30 cents lower last month’s prices and are still more than $30 per hundredweight higher than early December 2013. Similarly, feeders were also down, dropping to $234.13 per hundredweight, compared to $238.85 the previous week. The breakeven for last week’s feedlot placements was also down last week falling to $173.95 per hundredweight, according to John Nalivka with Sterling Marketing, Inc.

Beef packer margins were the only bright spot last week, improving more than $8 per head. Packers are still losing $70 per head but margins have been inching back toward positive territory over the past month. The beef cutout value decreased last week to $252.17 per hundredweight, compared to $253.69 the previous week.

Farrow-to-finish margins were down slightly last week, according to the Sterling Pork Profit Tracker. Margins were $40.05 per head, compared to $41.08 the previous week. Last year at this time, margins were negative $3.40.

Lean hogs were dropped less than $1 per hundredweight, from $88.46 to $87.97 the week ending December 5. Last month, lean hogs averaged $88.09 and last year at this time they were $81.15. Feed costs were down for hogs, dropping to $78.68 per head.

Pork packer margins increased last week, averaging $3.42 per head compared to $2.39 the previous week. The pork cutout value finished the week at $92.87 per hundredweight, compared to $92.88 the previous week.

The Sterling Beef Profit Tracker for the week ending December 6:

  • Average feeder margins: $44.96 per head
  • Average beef packer margins: -$70.05 per head

The Sterling Pork Profit Tracker for the week ending November 28:

  • Average farrow-to-finish margins: $40.08 per head.
  • Average pork packer margins: $3.41 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.