Canadian cattle herd stable at open of 2016

08 March 2016

Last week’s release of the Canadian cattle herd numbers for 1 January 2016 shows a very small increase in the total herd, up 0.3%, to 11.96 million head. This was the first year-on-year growth in the national herd since a small increase in 2013, while the general trend since 2005 has been for significant contraction. From 2005 to 2011, the Canadian cattle herd dropped by 19%, from 14.9 million to 12.2 million head, but has been relatively steady around 12 million head since then.

Regarding the breakdown of the herd, beef cows were virtually steady on last year, at 3.83 million head – just 1,600 head lower. Beef heifers for breeding, however, jumped 4%, to 547,300 head, a sign of herd rebuilding intent. The scale of these two categories needs to be noted, however, with heifers making up a much smaller total figure than cows.

It is interesting to note the different conclusions reached by meat industry commentators based on the same figures. Canfax notes in their weekly report that the latest figures suggest expansion for the Canadian cattle industry is on the way, particularly with a caveat that 2016 census figures might show beef cow numbers have actually increased in the last year, rather than held steady. The Daily Livestock Report, on the other hand, suggests that such a small combined increase in the total breeding herd (beef cows and heifers combined were just 19,200 head, or 0.4%, higher than last year) does not provide enough change for significant growth. This could be offset, somewhat, if Canadian exports of cows and heifers to the US are lower in 2016.

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