Cattle feeding margins gained only modestly, despite the fact feeder cattle factored into closeouts were $40 per head less than the previous week. That’s because cash fed cattle priced dipped $2 per cwt. Average feedyard losses totaled $175.72, about $10 less than the week before, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker.

USDA’s 5-area direct price last week was $133.63 per cwt., but breakeven averaged $147.15.

Feeder cattle prices averaged $190.88 against the fed cattle sold last week, according to John Nalivka, Sterling Marketing, Vale, Ore. The total cost of finishing cattle marketed last week was $1,920 per head.

Beef packer margins improved $1 per head, earning profits of $63 per animal. Packer margins are about $50 per head better than a month ago.

Sterling Marketing estimates feedyards lost a cumulative unhedged $4.7 billion in 2015, with average weekly losses of $239.26 per head. That compares to an unhedged profit of $3.9 billion in 2014, and losses of $1.1 billion in 2013. 

A month ago cattle feeders were losing $140 per head, while a year ago feedyard closeouts were $97 in the red, according to Sterling Marketing. Feeder cattle represent 77% of the cost of finishing a steer, compared with 80% a year ago.

A month ago beef packers were earning $14 for every animal processed, while a year ago packers were losing $41 per head, Sterling Marketing estimates.

Farrow-to-finish pork producers found profits of $3 per hog last week, up from last week’s profit of $2.

Pork packers saw a $2 decrease in profit margins to $12 per head. Negotiated prices for lean hogs were $65.03, up $1 per cwt. from the previous week. Cash prices for fed cattle are $34 per cwt. lower than last year, and negotiated hog prices are $7 per cwt. higher than last year.

Sterling Marketing projects 2016 average cash profit margins for cow-calf producers at $263 per cow. Last year’s estimated average cow-calf margins were $432 per cow. Cow-calf profits for 2014 were estimated at $517 per cow.