Feeding Losses Plummeting

As cash fed cattle prices decline, cattle feeding losses are plummeting, a major reason feeder cattle prices are working lower.

Cash fed cattle prices have declined for the last four weeks, expanding losses to cattle feeders.  The Sterling Profit Tracker reported that cattle unhedged feeding losses tumbled another $2 per cwt last week to $221.04 a head, $94 a head more than the previous week as choice steer prices fell to an average of $145.29 per cwt

Mounting losses also were cited as a reason cattle feeders are resisting lower bids from packer buyers.  So far this week, only a few scattered sales were reported in Iowa around $140 to $142 per cwt on a live basis, down $2 to $3 from last week.  In the Plains, bids of $144 have been rebuffed by feedlots seeking $148 to $150.

On a monthly basis, cattle feeder margins have been below breakeven for the last nine months, and fed cattle prices would have to rise sharply in the last four months of the year to reverse the situation.

And at an average of $222.58 a head, monthly losses this year have been particularly steep, rivaled over the last decade only by 2012 when they averaged $159.54 a head.  This amounts to $41.39 billion in equity losses this year for the cattle feeding industry.




Partly because of the heavy fed cattle losses, feeder cattle prices are working lower.  Since the latest weekly peak of $232.43 per cwt the second week of June, weekly prices for 700- to 800-pound feeder steers in the Southern Plains have declined $21.54, or 9.27%, to $210.89.

Those feeder steer prices dropped below year-ago prices a month ago and are close to testing this year’s weekly low of $208.37 per cwt.

Feeder cattle prices remain well above the 2009-2013 average, however, and they will have to drop closer to this line for cattle feeders to approach breakenven levels at current fed cattle prices.

Last week’s price of $210.89 was $80.77, or 62.1%, above the same week in the five-year average of $130.12.




Cash fed cattle markets remain mostly quiet as sellers resist lower bids from packer buyers.  Sales were reported in Iowa this week at $140 per cwt on a live basis with $142 reported in Nebraska, $2 to $4 lower than last week.  Volume, however, has been very light.

Bids Thursday in the Plains rose to $143 to $144 from $142 to $144 on Wednesday but failed to attract attention from cattle sellers who were asking about $148.  Dressed bids were $222 with asking prices holding at $228.

Last week, cattle traded lightly at mostly $143 to $144 live and $226 to $228 dressed.

The USDA reported lower boxed beef prices Thursday with choice down $0.16 per cwt at $240.81 and select off $0.59 at $228.44 with 102 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $207.71, up $0.59.  This compares with the Sep settlement Thursday of $202.55, up $1.80.