Canadian cattle herd continues to shrink

It’s now at its lowest point since 1988, dropping 26.3 percent to 12.4 million head on farms from a peak number recorded in 2005

The Canadian cattle herd continues to shrink and is at the lowest July 1 number since 1988, Statistics Canada reported in its July 1, 2018, inventory report.

Breeding stock numbers are also down and many in the industry say it is unlikely to improve, at least in Western Canada, because drought and resulting feed shortages will force sales.

As of July 1, Canada had 12.4 million cattle on farms, down 0.8 percent from July 2017, Statistics Canada said. That’s 26.3 percent less than the peak number recorded in July 2005.

The number of beef heifers retained for breeding was down 2.6 percent to 669,000. The number of beef cows declined by 1.2 percent to 3.7 million head. Calf numbers were down 1.3 percent to four million. Feeder heifer numbers were up 2.7 percent and steers were down by 1.3 percent compared to July 2017, Statistics Canada said.

On the dairy side, Statistics Canada reported 1.4 million cows on farms, up 0.8 percent from July 1, 2017.

Canfax gave additional perspective to the numbers in its Aug. 24 report.

“Cow marketings were up 11 percent in the first half of the year, and poor calving conditions also may have contributed to lower calf numbers,” it said. “The Canadian calf inventory was 3.994 million head, and the last time the July 1 calf inventory was below four million was 1990.”

Most of the beef herd decline occurred in Western Canada, where cow inventory was down 1.3 percent and heifer retention was down three percent.

However, cattle numbers did increase in British Columbia by about three percent. Manitoba numbers declined by 2.6 percent, and Saskatchewan and Alberta by 1.4 percent, respectively.

As for hog inventories, Statistics Canada said this report indicates the first year-over-year decrease in numbers since July 2014.

“However, the hog inventory remains 11.1 percent above the July 1, 2014, level. As of July 1, 8,115 farms reported hogs in Canada, down 2.5 percent from the same date a year earlier. These farms reported 1.2 million sows and gilts, up 0.3 percent from July 1, 2017,” said Statistics Canada.

Some 2.7 million hogs were exported in the first half of this year, down 6.9 percent from the same period in 2017.

The number of sheep in Canada rose by 1.6 percent compared to July 2017, said Statistics Canada, with a total of 1,065,400 animals.

The sheep breeding herd increased for the first time in seven years, with higher numbers of ewes and replacement lambs. The number of market lambs increased 2.5 percent from year ago levels, totalling 423,700.

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