Weakness in the feeder and finished cattle marketplace continued to put pressure on feedlot margins the final week of January, according to the latest Sterling Profit Tracker data. Feedlots lost, on average, $56.66 last week. This is a nearly $65 swing in the past 30 days and more than $227 swing since this time last year.

The 5-Area direct price for cattle averaged $159.33 last week, down just 30 cents from the previous week and $5 per hundredweight from this time last month. Feeders weighing between 750 and 800 pounds dropped below $200 for the first time in several months, falling to $198.56 per hundredweight, more than $12 lower than the previous week and more than $24 from the end of December. Last week’s breakeven for placements was $152.04, down from nearly $160 the previous week, according to John Nalivka.

Packer margins were mostly steady last week at $52. The beef cutout value was down again, falling from $259.61 to $255.20 per hundredweight. This is still more than $20 per hundredweight higher than this time last year.

Projections for cow-calf margins remain strong for 2015, with Sterling Marketing Inc. forecasting cow-calf margins to be $688 per cow this year.

Farrow-to-finish margins improved last week and climbed back into positive territory reaching $13.62 per head, according to the Sterling Pork Profit Tracker. Last month at this time, margins were $9.65 per head. Last year at the end of January, farrow-to-finish margins were $13.71.

Lean hogs declined nearly another $2 to $69.22. This is down about $8 from last month and about $13 from last year. Feed costs topped $74 per head last week.  

Pork packer margins decreased last week, averaging $13.96 per head compared to $18.70 the previous week. The pork cutout value finished the week at $80.61 per hundredweight, down nearly $5 from the previous week.

The Sterling Beef Profit Tracker for the week ending January 31:

  • Average feeder margins: -$56.66 per head
  • Average beef packer margins: $52.10 per head

The Sterling Pork Profit Tracker for the week ending January 30:

  • Average farrow-to-finish margins: $13.62 per head
  • Average pork packer margins: $13.97 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.