Santa Claus won’t come for another week but cattle feeders received an early lump of coal as feedlot margins fell to negative $32.76 per head the week ending December 13, according to the latest Sterling Profit Tracker. This is the second-straight week of huge losses for cattle feeders, with feedlot margins dropping nearly $78 since early in the month. What’s more, since this time last month, feedlot margins have taken a $263.99 per head swing from the $231.23 per head profit at this time last month.

Fed cattle markets dropped $5 per hundredweight last week, a major factor in the margin decline. Fed steers averaged $161.85 per hundredweight last week. While fed cattle prices dropped $8 compared to this time last month, they are still $30 per hundredweight higher than this time last year. The breakeven for last week’s feedlot placements was also down last week falling to $174.64 per hundredweight, up from $173.95, according to John Nalivka with Sterling Marketing, Inc.

Beef packer margins continued improving last week, climbing nearly $8.50 per head to negative $61.69. The beef cutout value decreased again last week to $245.94 per hundredweight, compared to $252.17 the previous week.

Farrow-to-finish margins were down again last week, according to the Sterling Pork Profit Tracker. Margins were $34.78 per head, compared to $40.05 the previous week. Last year at this time, margins were negative 4.38.

Lean hogs were dropped to $85.48 per hundredweight the week ending December 12. Last month, lean hogs averaged $34.39 and last year at this time they were $79.49. Feed costs were up for hogs, climbing to $82.32 per head.

Pork packer margins increased last week, averaging $7.58 per head compared to $3.51 the previous week. The pork cutout value finished the week at $92.41 per hundredweight, compared to $92.87 the previous week.

The Sterling Beef Profit Tracker for the week ending December 13:

  • Average feeder margins: -$32.75 per head
  • Average beef packer margins: -$61.69 per head

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

  • Average farrow-to-finish margins: $34.78 per head.
  • Average pork packer margins: $7.58 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.