Canada’s year-end cattle herd continues shrinking

Slaughter beat pre-pandemic pace in second half, StatsCan says

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Year-over-year contraction continued for Canada’s cattle herd at the start of 2021, while newborn piglet counts kept Canada’s hog herd on the rise during the same period, according to Statistics Canada.

StatsCan on Monday reported 11.2 million cattle on Canadian farms at Jan, 1, 2021 — down one per cent from the year-earlier date and 25.3 per cent off the herd’s last peak at Jan. 1, 2005. The herd was spread across 71,330 farms, down 1.8 per cent from Jan. 1, 2020.

The overall cattle count takes into account a 1.7 decrease in the herd in Western Canada, to 8.2 million head, as well as a 0.9 per cent increase in the East, to 2.9 million head.

The calf count on Jan. 1 was down 1.1 per cent on the year at 3.7 million head, including a 3.5 per cent drop in births over the July-to-December period compared to the same stretch in 2019. Feeder heifers were down 4.5 per cent and steers 4.2 per cent on the year.

Total slaughter of cattle and calves from July through December 2020 was up 0.6 per cent from the same stretch in 2019. In 2020, StatsCan said, “processing plants adapted their operations to increase processing capacity and reduce existing backlogs.”

The cattle slaughter pace in 2020 ran notably higher during the summer months, which “typically experience seasonal slowdowns.”

Canada’s exports of cattle and calves, at 303,000 head, were down two per cent in the latter half of 2020 compared to the year-earlier period, as U.S. processing plants also ran up against backlogs of slaughter cattle due to COVID-19.

StatsCan said the Canadian dairy herd has remained “fairly stable” since the start of 2018, sitting at 1.4 million cows and heifers as of Jan. 1, 2021.


As of Jan. 1 this year, Canada’s hog herd was reported at 14 million head, up 0.4 per cent from Jan. 1, 2020 and 11.2 per cent from a decade earlier, StatsCan said. The herd was spread across 7,575 farms, down 0.8 per cent.

Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba had the largest hog inventories as of Jan. 1 with Quebec at 4.3 million, Ontario at 3.7 million and Manitoba at 3.3 million.

Canadian farms reported 1.2 million sows and gilts, up one per cent on the year, while the number of boars remained “virtually unchanged,” StatsCan said.

Slaughter over the July-to-December period of 2020, at 11.5 million head, was up 4.2 per cent on the year, reaching its highest level since Jan. 1, 2005. Exports during that period ran at 2.8 million hogs, up 10.1 per cent from the year-earlier period, on demand from the U.S. for weaner pigs and higher export demand for pork, particularly from China.


Flocks of sheep and lambs in Canada as of Jan. 1 this year were at their lowest inventory levels since Jan. 1, 1999, StatsCan said. At 780,200 head, the sheep herd was down two per cent from the same point in 2020.

The sheep breeding herd fell one per cent year-over-year to 580,800 head, mainly on reductions in the number of ewes and rams. The number of market lambs fell 4.8 per cent over 2020, to 199,400 head, while lamb slaughter rose 2.6 per cent, to 336,200 head.

Exports of sheep and lambs fell to 3,100 head during 2020, while imports of live animals totalled 8,400 head, the highest level for the Jan. 1 date since 2015, StatsCan said. –– Glacier FarmMedia Network

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Editor, Daily News

Dave Bedard

Editor, Daily News, Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.



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