Smaller cow herd seems likely


Source: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

“Based on Statistics Canada’s July 1 inventory numbers, the national beef cow herd declined by 1.7% in 2022 over 2021,” says 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.

Image 1. Alberta beef cow and heifer replacement inventory 2019 to 2022

Bar graph of Alberta beef cow and heifer replacement inventory 2019 to 2022

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

Boyda adds 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 says, “however with the prospect of strong prices it is possible to see the cattle cycle enter an expansion phase.”

For more information, see:

AgriProfit$ – Beef cost of production economics


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