OTTAWA — The Canadian beef herd has maintained the status quo for another year with little or no growth across the country since 2011.
“We are basically flat. We were up .3 percent last year in 2016 and this year we are up .2 percent,” said Brenna Grant of Canfax.
“It is basically saying we are not interested in expansion or liquidating. We are just staying stable.”
The most recent Statistics Canada livestock inventory report said the national all cattle herd (including dairy) is at 12.1 million head with some regional expansion.
British Columbia grew by 2.9 percent, and Saskatchewan experienced 2.4 percent growth. Alberta remains flat, although it still has the largest cattle population.
The key to expansion is retention of heifers, but that is not happening.
“We had this little uptick where we were up 4.5 percent last year and then it went down 1.5 percent,” she said.
Cull cow rates are also stable, remaining at the long-term average of 11 percent going to market.
The total breeding female numbers are steady at 4.4 million head.
At the same time, the United States is expanding in a major way with record amounts of beef coming on the market with a peak expected by next year.
Substantial amounts of beef, pork and poultry are available, so prices are also stable around the world.
Growing global consumption among all the major meats is positive for the next five years. Consumption of poultry leads the way between 2016-21, growing by 10 percent. Beef is at 7.5 percent and pork at 2.6 percent.
“There is optimism,” Grant said.
“We know we are in that part of the cycle where production is definitely pressuring prices, but there will be global demand.”
Wholesale prices are down 32 percent and retail prices dipped eight percent from the peak of December 2016.
Large production pressures prices downward on the retail side, but that makes products more affordable.
Ground beef prices have dropped more than the middle cuts, where there is good demand for quality.
Carcass weights are down, so beef tonnage should be less than last year even as slaughter increases.
“Even though we have more cattle coming to market, if we have lower carcass weights throughout the year, we are not going to have a glut of product on the market and pressuring prices down,” she said.
Canadian beef exports remain strong, although live sales are down with more cattle remaining at home for feeding and processing. The world’s top five beef exporters include India, Brazil, Australia, the U.S. and Canada.
Canfax also evaluates demographics and has noticed that young producers are joining the business. They are expanding with more cows and land to establish themselves.
“With the older producers, they are probably not looking for more work and they are holding the herd size they have right now if they are (considering) retiring,” Grant said.