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Canadian cattle herd makes little growth

Small increase first since 2005 Beef cattle numbers down in all provinces except British Columbia, Alberta

Canada’s livestock numbers remain flat as a strong loonie and high feed costs create little appetite for expansion.

Statistics Canada’s July 1 inventory report found 13.540 million cattle, up 0.1 percent from last year’s census.

Though modest, it was the first year-over-year increase since 2005 and followed seven years of declining inventories.

There are 3.9 million cows on 82,760 operations, down 1.8 percent from July 2012 and a decrease of nearly four percent since 2011.

Beef cattle numbers were down in all provinces except British Columbia and Alberta. Alberta’s herd increased 2.2 percent to 5.5 million head, while B.C.’s herd increased less than one percent to 655,000 head from 650,000.

Heifer retention, which is the number to watch in the beef sector, increased by less than one percent.

Fewer breeding females means the overall calf supply is also dropping, resulting in fewer available slaughter cattle for the third consecutive year.

The United States did not issue a midyear inventory report this year because of government cost cutting, but a private analysis firm suggested the American picture is similar.

The CME Group said a smaller calf crop means the available number for North American slaughter is likely to be around 38 million head, two percent lower than last year.

The reduction has created a bullish cattle market for this fall and into 2014-15, said the firm.

Canadian cattle exports to the U.S. increased by more than 40 percent for the first half of the year with more than 568,000 head going south for feeding and finishing. About 400,000 were exported during the first six months of last year.

Statistics Canada said the hog sector is holding steady with 1.2 million sows and gilts. There are nearly 13 million pigs up 0.6 percent from a year ago. There were 7,100 hog farms, down 1.4 percent.

Manitoba was the only province to show any rebuilding of the hog herd, increasing 2.4 percent to 2.9 million as July 1.

Sheep are also flat to declining with the total number at 1.13 million. However, Alberta showed good growth at 3.5 percent compared to the Atlantic region, where the flock shrunk by 4.3 percent.

British Columbia and Manitoba flocks also had small increases of 1.7 percent.

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