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Cattle inventories increased in 2011 as prices improved throughout the year. Canadian cattle farmers had just over 12.5 million cattle on their farms as of January 1, 2012, up 0.5% from the same date a year earlier; the first year-over-year increase in seven years.
The inventory of beef cows fell by 1.0%, continuing a downward trend that started in January 2006. However, the January 1, 2012 inventory of beef replacement heifers increased 4.8% in the Western provinces and increased 1.0% in the East. Overall, inventories of beef replacement heifers rose 4.3%. The increase in replacement heifers indicates that producers are beginning to replenish the herd with younger cows.
Canadian farmers had about 1.4 million dairy cows and heifers on their farms, roughly unchanged from January 1, 2011.
Cattle on feeding operations in Canada were higher by 4.0% at January 1, 2012 from a year earlier. Heifers and calves were seen to have increased by 2.7% and 15.2% respectively, while the number of steers declined 1.2% from a year ago.
In 2011, cattle and calf slaughter totalled 3.5 million head, down 7.5% from 2010 and down 6.5% from the same period in 2009. On average, 3.7 million head were slaughtered in Canada in each of the previous five years.
There were an estimated 689,300 head of cattle and calves exported in 2011, down 35.2% from 2010 and 35.4% below the level of 2009.
Farm type and number
An estimated 95,105 farms reported cattle and calves as of January 1, 2012, down 1.4% from the same date last year and down 4.3% from two years earlier. Beef producers account for approximately 85% of the total number of farms with cattle in Canada.
Beef cattle production takes place mainly on three types of cattle farms. At January 1, 2012 there were 66,595 cow-calf operations, 10,865 cow-calf backgrounding operations, and 2,945 feeding operations in Canada. The bulk of Canadian beef cow inventories (93.0%) were on cow-calf operations.
Usually more than half the heifers for slaughter and steers inventories in Canada, at January 1, are reported to be on feeding operations. The Western provinces had 31.6% of the total feeding operations and accounted for 76.8% of the Canadian cattle inventory on feeding operations on January 1, 2012.
There were 16,270 farms reporting dairy cattle at January 1, 2012 with 85.6% of those operations located in Eastern Canada. Specialised dairy farms accounted for 88.0% of all farms producing dairy products. There were 1,570 farms in Canada that kept both a dairy and a cow-calf (beef) herd on the same operation. The number of operations with dairy cattle that reported veal production was 1,155 at January 1, 2012.