Even with a $4 decline in fed cattle prices last week, the Sterling Profit Tracker reveals feedyards found modest profits of $9 per head, a $3 per decline from the previous week. Margins were held together by the fact feeder cattle prices factored against last week’s fed marketings were nearly $8 per cwt. lower than the previous week.

USDA’s 5-area cash price last week was $117.11, down $4.27 per cwt. The total cost of finishing cattle last week was $1,621, compared to $1,677 the previous week and $2,118 last year, according to Sterling Marketing, Inc., Vale, Ore.

Beef packer margins increased $6 per head, resulting in average profits of $198 on every animal processed. Packer margins are about $72 per head better than a month ago.

A month ago cattle feeders were earning $150 per head, while a year ago losses were pegged at $54 per head, according to Sterling Marketing. Feeder cattle represent 72% of the cost of finishing a steer, compared to 77% last year.

A month ago beef packers were earning $125 for every animal processed, while a year ago packers were earning $154, Sterling Marketing estimates.

Farrow-to-finish pork producers earned $46 per hog last week, about $3 per head better than last week, and $17 per head better than a month ago.

Pork packers saw their margins remain about steady at the breakeven level compared to the previous week. Negotiated prices for lean hogs were $84 per cwt. last week, an increase of $2 per cwt. from the previous week. Cash prices for fed cattle are $31 per cwt. lower than last year, and negotiated hog prices are $25 higher than last year.

Nalivka projects average cash profit margins for cow-calf producers at $177 per cow this year. Last year’s estimated average cow-calf margins were $432 per cow.