Canada Markets

Canada's Beef Cattle Numbers Continue to Fall

Cliff Jamieson
By  Cliff Jamieson , Canadian Grains Analyst
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Statistics Canada estimates of beef cattle numbers in Canada as of July 1 fell further below the 2005 high to 11.143 million head while the July 1 inventory of hogs has increased for the third consecutive year. (DTN graphic by Nick Scalise)

As expected, Statistics Canada's livestock estimates as of July 1 2015 shows a further decline in the country's cattle numbers, pushing the long-awaited recovery further down the road as a result of the drought conditions in the Canadian Prairies.

There was a total of 13 million head of cattle on Canadian farms as of July 1, down 285,000 head or 2.1% in the past year and down 23% from the record 16.880 million head reported for July 1 2005. The July 1 inventory has fallen each year except one since 2005, with numbers remaining unchanged between 2013 and 2014. The most recent inventory represents the smallest number since 1992.

Of this year-over-year change in cattle numbers, the reduction of animals on beef operations totaled 254,300 head, or 89.2% of the total. The year-over-year decline in beef cows in Canada fell 134,400 head to 3.7922 million head. This is down 30.2% from the July 1 high of 5.4362 million head in 2005.

Across the Prairies, the year-over-year drop in the cow herd in Manitoba was 10,100 head or 2.2%, 32,800 head in Saskatchewan or 2.7% and 70,000 head in Alberta, or 4.4%, consistent with this season's weather pattern that delivered less moisture as one moves west across the Prairies.

Further liquidation is likely moving forward given looming feed shortages. Saskatchewan's Crop Report as of August 10 indicates provincial dryland hay yield at .9 tons/acre for alfalfa and 1.1 tons/acre for brome/alfalfa hay. These yields reflect 52.9% and 64.7% of their respective five-year average yields. As of August 3, pasture conditions were rated as 1% excellent, 32% Good, 38% Fair, 23% poor and 6% very poor. Alberta's most recent crop report suggests first-cut hay to average .8 ton/acre, 47% of last year's production. Alberta's pasture growth is rated at 17% Good to Excellent, as compared to the five-year average of 75% Good to Excellent for a similar time period.

The number of hogs on Canadian farms increased 1.1% to 13.225 million head, the third annual increase in the July 1 data as numbers retrace towards the 2008 level.

This data comes ahead of Friday's Statistics Canada data which could lead to a bullish report for Canadian barley markets. Today's Saskatchewan Crop Report as of August 17 pegged the average provincial barley yield at 57 bushels per acre, above the province's five-year average calculated at 53.5 bpa. At the same time, when combined with last week's Alberta Crop Report estimate of 50.4 bpa for that province and utilizing current acreage estimates, one could build a bullish case for barley production being below the current pre-report estimates ranging from 6.9 to 7.2 million tons while potentially reaching a fresh record low level of production.

Statistics Canada will release its 2015 grain production estimates at 7:30 AM CDT on Friday.

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