More bad news for cattle feeders last week as feedlot margins were down again, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker. Feedlots lost nearly $66 per head last week, compared to losing $3 the previous week.

Driving feedlot margins down were lower prices for both finished and feeder cattle. Last week, fed cattle were down another $3 per hundredweight to $159.67. It was about this time last year that the price for finished cattle began an historic climb and flirted, for the first time, with $150. Feeders weighing between 750 pounds and 800 pounds fell nearly $16 to $211.06. This is $11 lower than a month ago but still almost $50 higher than placements last year at this time. Last week’s breakeven for placements was $159.88, down $10 from the previous week, according John Nalivka.

Packer margins improved again, and topped $52 per head last week and posting a nearly $100 positive swing in the last 30 days. The beef cutout value fell to $255.20 per hundredweight, down from $259 the previous week but $15 higher than last month at this time.

Farrow-to-finish margins fell into the red last week, dropping to negative 89 cents per head, according to the Sterling Pork Profit Tracker. Last month at this time, margins were $13.17 per head. Last year at the end of January, farrow-to-finish margins were $3.54.

Lean hogs declined nearly another $2 to $71.85. This is down about $6 from last month and about $10 from last year. Feed costs were mostly steady at just shy of $75.  

Pork packer margins increased last week, averaging $18.70 per head compared to $12.18 the previous week. The pork cutout value finished the week at $85.31 per hundredweight, compared to $83.95 the previous week.

The Sterling Beef Profit Tracker for the week ending January 24:

  • Average feeder margins: -$65.93 per head.
  • Average beef packer margins: $52.10 per head.

The Sterling Pork Profit Tracker for the week ending January 23:

  • Average farrow-to-finish margins: -$0.89 per head.
  • Average pork packer margins: $18.79 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.