by SUSAN MANN
There is a slight decline in total cattle numbers in Ontario this year compared to last year, according to Statistics Canada’s recent livestock numbers report.
As of July 1, there were 1.7 million cattle on Ontario farms, a 0.2 per cent drop compared to the 1.74 million cattle on farms as of July 1, 2015.
Ontario and the Atlantic region were the only spots in Canada with declining cattle numbers. For all of Canada, farmers had 13 million cattle on their farms as of July 1, up about one per cent from July 1, 2015, according to the report released Thursday.
Dave Stewart, Beef Farmers of Ontario executive director, said the Statistics Canada cattle numbers include all ages, weights and sexes of beef animals plus dairy cows.
The numbers involved in Ontario’s cattle herd decline compared to a year ago “aren’t anything that we didn’t expect,” he said.
However, “we try not to react too much to just point-in-time type of statistics. Our board certainly recognized three or four years ago the beef cow herd in Ontario was declining.” That’s why Beef Farmers is working on programs to increase the herd’s size, he said.
Stewart said more animals are needed for Ontario to retain its beef-processing infrastructure. The Ontario beef cow herd is currently at 268,000 head “and we could easily go back to 400,000 cows.”
Beef Farmers is working with the Ontario agriculture ministry to expand the beef herd in the northern part of the province.
“We see the north as an area where we can greatly expand the cow herd and offset the decline,” he said. However, he predicts it will take a few years to expand the herd.
The Statistics Canada report also touched on pig and sheep numbers. As of July 1, Canadian hog producers had 14 million hogs on their farms, an increase of two per cent from July 1, 2015.
The number of sheep across Canada fell almost three per cent to one million head on July 1 compared to a year earlier. BF