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Livestock estimates, July 1, 2020

Released: 2020-08-20

The COVID-19 pandemic created processing disruptions in parts of the country, causing temporary closures of processing plants and a backlog of slaughter.

In the case of cattle, while the temporary plant closures in Canada did result in an increase in inventories, overall ending inventories remained below 2019 levels. The decline compared with 2019 would have been greater if not for processing disruptions caused by COVID-19. For hog inventories, the impact was minimal as a decline in exports to the United States due to temporary plant closures was offset by strong demand for Canadian pork in China. No significant impact on sheep inventories was observed.

Canadian cattle and sheep inventories decreased while hog inventories increased on July 1, 2020, compared with July 1, 2019.

Canadian cattle inventories have declined year over year (July to July) since July 2005. Meanwhile, with the exception of a small increase in July 2018, Canadian sheep inventories have been declining year over year (July to July) since July 2011. Canadian hog inventories have been fairly stable since July 2018 (July to July).

Supply and disposition

Cattle

Canadian farmers had 12.2 million cattle on their farms on July 1, 2020, down 0.5% from July 1, 2019, continuing the decline in the Canadian cattle herd. Inventories were over one-quarter (-27.5%) below their peak level of July 2005.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Total cattle inventories, July 1, 2019, and 2020
Total cattle inventories, July 1, 2019, and 2020

Alberta had the largest cattle inventories among the provinces on July 1, contributing 40.4% to the Canadian total, followed by Saskatchewan (21.3%) and Ontario (13.0%).

Cattle producers retained less breeding stock in 2020, as the number of beef heifers held for breeding on Canadian farms was down 0.8% year over year to 630,800 head. The number of beef cows decreased 1.4% to 3.6 million head. The inventory of calves on July 1 edged down 0.4% to 4.0 million. The number of feeder heifers increased 2.5%, while the number of steers decreased 0.8% from July 1, 2019.

As of July 1, 72,630 farms reported inventories of cattle and calves, down 0.3% from July 1, 2019, and down 0.9% from the same date in 2018. Canadian farmers had 1.4 million dairy cows and heifers on their farms, which is consistent with the number recorded on July 1, 2019. Births during the first six months of 2020 declined 0.7% year over year to 3.2 million head.

Total disposition of cattle and calves was down 7.4% in the first half of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, driven by decreased cattle exports and slaughter. Processing plants in some provinces were closed for a period of time, resulting in a delay in slaughter. Total cattle slaughter from January to June decreased 8.6% to 1.6 million head year over year.

International exports of cattle and calves decreased 10.7% year over year to 369,900 head during the first half of 2020. Exports to the United States were affected by COVID-19, since processing plants in the United States also experienced temporary closures, which resulted in a backlog of cattle for slaughter and reduced the demand for Canadian cattle.

The January-to-June average price of Canadian cattle was lower in 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. Prices increased early in the year, but declined sharply in March, April and May as processing capacity was reduced due to the pandemic, resulting in an oversupply of cattle and an overall lower average price than in 2019.

Hogs

Hog producers reported 14.0 million hogs, up 0.2% from July 1, 2019. The hog inventory remained 11.8% above the level from a decade earlier.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Total hog inventories, July 1, 2019, and 2020
Total hog inventories, July 1, 2019, and 2020 

Quebec had the largest hog inventories among the provinces on July 1, accounting for close to one-third of the Canadian total. Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba combined accounted for over 80% of the total Canadian hog inventories.

As of July 1, 7,755 farms reported hogs in Canada, down 0.3% from the same date a year earlier. These farms reported 1.2 million sows and gilts, up 1.4%.

Canada exported 2.5 million hogs in the first half of 2020, down 1.9% from the same period in 2019. Lower exports are related to oversupply issues in the United States due to COVID-19-related plant closures, resulting in reduced imports from Canada. Canada's exports of hogs in the first half of 2020 were 49.7% below the first half of 2008 export peak.

Hog slaughter increased 3.7% year over year in Canada in the first six months of 2020 to 11.2 million head, as slaughter activities intensified to clear backlogs created by production disruptions due to COVID-19 as well as strong demand from China.

The January-to-June 2020 pig count was 14.5 million head, up 3.2% from the same period in 2019.

The January-to-June average price of Canadian hogs was lower in 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.

Sheep

The inventories of sheep and lambs on July 1, 2020, were down 2.6% from July 1, 2019, to 1,014,600 head. Inventories were 18.6% below the record high set in July 2003.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Total sheep inventories, July 1, 2019, and 2020
Total sheep inventories, July 1, 2019, and 2020 

Ontario and Quebec combined accounted for just over half of the total Canadian sheep and lamb inventories on July 1.

The sheep breeding herd decreased, as the number of ewes declined 2.4% to 498,900 head, replacement lambs fell 5.4% to 82,700 head, and rams were down by 3.8% to 22,900 head. The number of market lambs declined 2.1% from July 1, 2019, to 410,100 head.

International exports of sheep rose 59.1% year over year to 7,000 head in the first six months of 2020.

The January-to-June average price of Canadian slaughter lambs was higher in 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.

  Note to readers

The July Livestock Survey data was not directly collected from farmers this year in an effort to reduce response burden. Data were extracted from administrative files and used as a replacement to survey collection. Data were analyzed utilizing supply and disposition data to create estimates.

Livestock estimates are available for Canada and the provinces, as well as for the United States.

Revised data on red meat availability in tables 32-10-0053-01 and 32-10-0054-01 for 2018 and 2019 were released today to ensure coherency with the July 1, 2020, livestock estimates.

Products

The Agriculture and food statistics portal, accessible from the Subjects module of our website, provides users a single point of access to a wide variety of information related to agriculture and food.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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