Canadian cattle slaughter down in 2015

06 July 2015

With the Canadian cattle herd having been in decline over a relatively long period (dropping from 14.9 million head to 11.9 million head between 2005 to 2015), and a sharp increase in cattle prices over the past two years, Canadian cattle slaughter has dropped in 2015. Canfax reports that federally inspected slaughter is down 9% for the year to date, and processors, nationally, are working well below capacity.

The lower national herd has resulted in smaller calf crops, so there are fewer cattle coming through the system. Recent interest in herd rebuilding means that more cows are being retained for breeding an extra season or two, and fewer heifers are entering feedlots, but rather held on-farm for breeding. In addition, a similar pattern in the US resulted in a large number of feeder heifers being exported to the US in 2014, to help fill gaps in the US feedlot system.

Going some way to offsetting the reduction in cattle slaughter has been an increase in average carcase weights this year. An average Canadian steer in 2015 is around 11-12kg heavier than 2014, so far, as the smaller numbers of cattle in feedlots encourage feeders to finish their cattle to heavier weights. This has also been helped by relatively cheap feed, but this could become a little harder later this year and into 2016, with North American grain futures getting dearer through late June.

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