Total cattle and calves in the U.S. were reported at 100 million head on July 1, a decline of 1 percent from 2010. Canadian cattle and calves were at 13.87 million, a decline of 0.75 percent. Last fall I had the opportunity to speak at several Southeastern Manitoba cattle producer meetings. Much the same as in the U.S., Canadian feeder calf and cow prices had increased when compared to the past couple years. Producers were wondering whether herd expansion would take place in the U.S. and/or Canada. Several Manitoba producers expressed an interest in expanding their beef cow herds, but also were apprehensive given higher costs of production and the volatility in cattle and feed prices.

On July 1, beef cow numbers in the U.S. were reported at 31.4 million head, compared to 4.2 million in Canada. Both countries experienced beef cow herd declines in the past year with U.S. numbers down about 1.1 percent and Canadian numbers down 2.1 percent. Since 2006, beef cow numbers have declined about 5.6 percent in the U.S. compared to a decline of 18.6 percent in Canada; or a combined decline in the US/Canadian beef cow herd of 7.3 percent. Beef cows declined in the U.S. in 2003, 2004 and 2005 while they increased during that same time in Canada. The main reason for the increase was that Canada was dealing with BSE related market issues and the value of cows was so low that they were not sold and were retained in beef herds. At the same time several beef cow producing regions in the U.S. were experiencing severe drought conditions and beef herd liquidation.

A contrast in the 2011 numbers was that heifers kept for beef cow replacement were down almost 5 percent in the U.S. compared to an increase of almost 7 percent in Canada. The increase in Canada is not too surprising given that there is also interest in beef herd rebuilding in the Northern Plains of the U.S. where pasture and range conditions are very good. Over 80 percent of Canada's beef cows reside across the border from the Northern Plains in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.


Of course the Southern Plains and Southeastern U.S. remain very dry and beef herd liquidation is occurring there. So, beef cow herd rebuilding in the U.S. will be delayed at least another year, while an increase in Canada's beef herd could occur next year. end_mark