Canada books bigger beef cattle herd

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

New estimates from Statistics Canada show the country’s cattle producers hanging onto more breeding stock and holding more calves as of July 1 compared to the same date last year.

StatsCan’s livestock estimates as of July 1, released Thursday, showed 13.2 million cattle on Canadian farms as of July 1, up 1.3 per cent from July 1 last year. While relatively small, it marks the cattle herd’s first year-over-year increase since July 2012.

The agency’s estimates come from “administrative sources” and its own July livestock survey, which covered about 11,000 farms between June 6 and 19.

Canadian cattle market analyst Charlie Gracey, writing recently in Canadian Cattlemen, said 2016 isn’t going to be the year for “significant” beef herd expansion, and a significant supply increase likely won’t be seen until 2020 at the earliest.

“Determined and generally successful and laudable efforts have been made to open and expand (Canada’s beef) export markets,” he wrote in the August 2016 issue, but even such added access hasn’t yet given producers, many still mindful of Canada’s BSE crisis, the “confidence to expand.”

Province-by-province, the biggest increases in the cattle herd over the 12-month period were estimated to be in Manitoba (up 3.7 per cent at 1.25 million) and British Columbia (up 4.5 per cent at 690,000).

Alberta’s herd, by far Canada’s biggest, was up one per cent at 5.37 million; herds in Ontario and Atlantic Canada were down 0.5 and 0.2 per cent.

The number of beef heifers held for breeding on Canadian farms is estimated to be up 4.5 per cent over the same period, at 641,800 head, while beef cows numbers were estimated to be up 0.3 per cent at 3.8 million head.

Canada’s inventory of calves showed its first year-over-year increase since July 2005, up 3.9 per cent from July 1, 2015, at 4.3 million. The number of feeder heifers was also up 0.5 per cent, while steer numbers slipped 2.6 per cent.

Overall cattle inventories are still down 21.8 per cent, however, from the peak level recorded in July 2005, StatsCan said, noting the number of farms reporting cattle and calf inventories was also down 0.3 per cent, at 81,465.

Disposition of cattle and calves rose 1.2 per cent over the 12-month period on higher slaughter levels during the first half of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015. Slaughter increased 4.3 per cent, to 1.4 million head, over the first six months of 2016.

International exports, meanwhile, were down 10.6 per cent, to 433,700, during the first half of 2016, compared with the same period in 2015, on lower exports of calves, StatsCan said.

Cattle prices in Canada slipped in the first half of 2016 off the peaks seen in 2015, StatsCan said, although prices remained above the previous five-year average.

Hog herd also rising

Canada’s hog producers also booked a bigger total herd as of July 1 at 13.5 million head, up 1.9 per cent from the same date last year, but a 0.1 per cent increase in the number of hog farms, at 7,035.

Quebec’s hog herd, still Canada’s biggest, rose 1.9 per cent to 4.315 million head over the 12-month period. Ontario’s herd rose 3.1 per cent to 3.198 million; Manitoba’s was estimated at 3.035 million, up 1.3 per cent.

Canada’s hog farms reported 1.2 million sows and gilts, up 0.7 per cent from July 1, 2015, and a January-to-June 2016 pig crop of 14.4 million head, up 2.2 per cent from the same period in 2015.

Hog exports from Canada totalled 2.9 million head in the first half of 2016, down 0.1 per cent from the same period in 2015, StatsCan said.

The agency noted “strong demand” for hogs in the U.S., where hog inventories are estimated to have risen two per cent between June 1, 2015 and 2016, hitting their highest level for that date in over 50 years.

Canada’s hog slaughter totalled 10.6 million head in the first six months of 2016, up 1.3 per cent from the year-earlier period, while U.S. hog slaughter rose one per cent in the first six months of 2016 compared with the year-earlier period.

Sheep herd down

Counting sheep for the July 1-to-July 1 period, StatsCan estimated the herd at one million head, down 2.8 per cent. The sheep breeding herd also decreased, with 2.1 per cent fewer ewes and 4.2 per cent fewer replacement lambs. The number of market lambs was down 3.3 per cent.

Among the provinces, only Manitoba’s sheep herd saw an increase during the 12-month period, estimated to be up 5.5 per cent at 77,000 head. Sheep herds in Ontario and Quebec remain the largest, estimated at 321,000 (down 2.5 per cent) and 240,000 head (down four per cent) respectively.

Canada’s international exports of sheep over the first half of 2016 rose to 8,300 head — the highest level since the first half of 2003, StatsCan said. — AGCanada.com Network

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