Herd expansion hangs on feed supply

Beef numbers down | Ranchers will be looking to rebuild herds, says CCA president

The Canadian beef herd remains stable at 12.3 million cattle with some regional expansion happening in the West.

The Statistics Canada herd inventory report for Jan. 1 said numbers had gone up by about half a percent from last year with fewer beef cows but some increase in heifer retention. However, with more cows going to slaughter, the calf crop is not going to rebuild in the next year, said the inventory analysis.

According to Canfax, this is the smallest beef herd since 1993.

For Manitoba beef producer Martin Unrau, the possibility of expansion anywhere is remote due to drought and feed shortages in the eastern Prairies and central Canada.

“With the drought and lack of feed that we have, I am not seeing it,” said Unrau, who is also president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

“Everybody is poised to rebuild. We are still 60 days from grass and there are guys running out of feed now.”

He has personally bought more heifers because he had some extra feed, but does not see a trend toward rebuilding.

“If corn goes down to $5 and barley goes down to $3.50, and supply and demand stays the way it is for beef globally, we are in a position of tremendous opportunity,” he said.

The number of beef cows on Canadian farms decreased one percent to just below four million head, continuing a downward trend that started in January 2006.

Most of the decline occurred in Eastern Canada while the West is gearing up to rebuild.

The greatest growth is happening in Alberta where overall growth was 2.2 percent. British Columbia also reported a slight increase over the national average at under just one percent.

The number of heifers available for breeding this spring was up by 5.6 percent rising to 569,800 head.

The total Alberta cattle inventory is at slightly more than five million and accounts for 40 percent of the national herd.

Saskatchewan has the second largest herd at 2.45 million head and Ontario is third at 1.7 million, a decline of 0.09 percent from 2012.

Across the nation there are 83,525 farms with cattle and calves, down slightly from the January 2012 report and down 3.6 percent since 2011.

With fewer cattle available, slaughter numbers are also down. Just over three million were killed last year.

Exports rose 14 percent, with 702,500 leaving the country. However, this is almost half of what was shipped in the peak year of 2008.

The national dairy herd is constant at 1.3 million cows and heifers. Most reside in Ontario and Quebec.

The national hog count is down about half a percent from last year at 12.7 million hogs on 7,125 farms in Canada. The number of pig farms is down nearly two percent from last year.

There are 1.2 million breeding females.

Domestic hog slaughter remained virtually unchanged for the last three years at just below 21.3 million head.

Canada exported 5.7 million hogs in 2012, down 2.6 percent from 2011. This was nearly half of the peak year of 2007.

The number of sheep increased slightly to 892,700 head with the largest jump being in the number of replacement ewe lambs being held back for breeding.

The number of market lambs increased 2.4 percent from 2012.

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