U.S. and Canadian cattle inventory comparison

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Source: Tim Petry, Livestock Economist, North Dakota State University Extension Service

On March 6, 2013, Statistics Canada released its Livestock Estimates, January 1, 2013, report which detailed cattle, hog, and sheep inventories in Canada (www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/130306/dq130306a-eng.pdf). That same day USDA-NASS released the United States and Canadian Cattle and Sheep and the United States and Canadian Hogs reports (www.nass.usda.gov).

The Jan. 1 U.S. cattle inventory numbers were also previously released by NASS on Feb. 1 in the Cattle report. Those numbers have been discussed in previous In The Cattle Market columns. In summary, all cattle and calves in the U.S. on Jan. 1 were down 1.6 percent from 2012. Beef cows were down almost 3 percent, heifers kept for beef cow replacement were up 1.9 percent, calves and feeder cattle outside of feedlots were up almost 1 percent, cattle on feed were down 5.5 percent, and the 2012 calf crop was down 2.9 percent.

There were almost 12.3 million cattle in Canada on Jan. 1, 2013, up 0.5 percent from 2012. This was the second consecutive yearly increase after the previous six years of declining inventories. Despite the increases, the cattle herd was still 17.8 percent below its peak in 2005.  Beef cows at 3.96 million head were down about 1 percent, continuing a downward trend that started in 2006. Canada’s beef cow herd is just short of the 4.015 million head that were in Texas on Jan. 1.  On a provincial basis, Alberta has the most beef cows at just under 1.6 million, followed by Saskatchewan at under 1.2 million, and Manitoba at slightly less than half a million. Beef heifers held for breeding in Canada were up 5.6 percent to 569,800 head, and the third consecutive year of increases.

On a comparative basis, total cattle numbers in the U.S. were down 1.6 percent compared to a 0.5 percent increase in Canada. Beef cows declined 3 percent in the U.S. and 1 percent in Canada, beef replacement heifers increased 1.9 percent in the U.S. and 5.6 percent in Canada, cattle on feed in the U.S. declined 5.5 percent in the U.S. and 3.4 percent in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the 2012 U.S. calf crop declined 2.9 percent compared to a 2.5 percent decline in Canada. Better moisture conditions in Canada, than in some important cattle producing regions in the U.S. that suffered with drought conditions in 2012, were likely a reason for the smaller percentage decline in beef cows and the greater percentage increase in beef replacements in Canada.

Due to my close proximity to Canada, I have had the opportunity to speak at Canadian cattle producer meetings. They seem to have the same questions as U.S. cattle producers. Several Canadian producers have expressed an interest in expanding their beef cow herds, but also were apprehensive given the increasing costs of production and the volatility in cattle and feed prices.

The Markets

Fed cattle prices were lower last week on light to moderate trade. Across the 5-area market, liveweight steer prices averaged $126.66 per hundredweight down $1.06 for the week. Dressed weight prices decreased $2.69 to average $200.46 for the week. The boxed beef market continued its seasonal upward trend. Choice boxed beef prices closed up $1.73 at $196.75. Calf and feeder cattle receipts were higher last week after several weeks of stormy weather that reduced movement to markets. Calf and feeder cattle prices were mixed throughout the country. The most pressure seemed to be on the heavier-weight feeder cattle with some calves receiving support where moisture conditions are good. Corn prices in Omaha on Thursday were up 25 cents per bushel for the week at $7.54.


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