Smaller beef herd in Canada seems likely

But Alberta beef cow inventory up by 1.4%
calendar icon 21 October 2022
clock icon 1 minute read

Canadian beef cow herd numbers are down, although Alberta inventory shows growth, according to a report from Alberta Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development.

“Based on Statistics Canada's July 1 inventory numbers, the national beef cow herd declined by 1.7% in 2022 over 2021,” said Ann Boyda, market analyst with Alberta Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development. “This decline followed a 3.1% decrease in beef cow numbers in 2021 over 2020.”

In comparison, Alberta 2022 beef cow inventory increased by 1.4%. However, the Alberta 2022 replacement heifer inventory decreased by 9.4%. Boyda notes that producers interested in rebuilding their herds face a timing issue. They can slow down the rate of culling of cows but availability of replacement heifers may take longer.

“Cow-calf margins are expected to be positive through to the end of the year, but below their 5-year average," said Boyda. "The cow herd numbers can give a sign of whether expansion is possible in the future.”

Boyda added that the Statistics Canada data reflects producers' intentions in early summer. But with the improved weather conditions and favorable crop harvest, the heifer retention numbers could increase this fall.

“A smaller cow herd may be in the immediate future,” Boyda said. “However, with the prospect of strong prices it is possible to see the cattle cycle enter an expansion phase.”

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