Cattle feeders generally expected margins to be much better by now. An anticipated spring rally that could have erased a lot of red ink has failed to materialize, leaving feedyard closeouts stuck in neutral with near $200 losses.

Average cattle feeding margins retreated about $10 per head further into the red, leaving managers with $186 per head losses, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker. Cash fed cattle prices ended the week modestly higher at $133.97 per cwt., but feeder cattle prices factored into closeouts were $19 per head higher than the previous week. Average breakeven prices were $148.27 per cwt.

Feeder cattle prices averaged $193.38 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 $1,935 per head.

Beef packer margins declined $34 per head, earning profits of $26 per animal. Packer margins are about $14 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 $76 per head, while a year ago feedyard closeouts were $155 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 $40 for every animal processed, while a year ago packers were losing $22 per head, Sterling Marketing estimates.

Farrow-to-finish pork producers found profits of $3 per hog last week, steady with the previous week.

Pork packers saw a $2 increase in profit margins to $14 per head. Negotiated prices for lean hogs were $64.97, steady with the previous week. Cash prices for fed cattle are $30 per cwt. lower than last year, and negotiated hog prices are $4 per cwt. higher than last year.

Sterling Marketing projects 2016 average cash profit margins for cow-calf producers at $233 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.