The decline in the national suckler herd in recent years seems to be going into reverse, as evidenced by the brisk trade for breeding heifers in recent months.

Currently, there are close to one million suckler cows in this country, but there is great potential for these numbers to increase dramatically, in line with the targeted production levels set by industry and government.

There is an air of optimism among beef farmers at this moment. However, if profitability is not maintained at all levels from suckler farms and right through to specialist finishers, then producers will be tempted by alternative enterprises – particularly when milk quota regulations change in 2015.

Profit will always be the key driver in any successful beef enterprise, but producers must examine their production systems in depth and establish efficiency parameters.

Argentina’s beef exports peaked in 2005 as a result of rising global consumption and high prices. Since then, the industry has faced difficulties as a result of a series of government-imposed export and supply chain controls and price caps aimed at increasing supplies to the domestic market.


Since late 2005, when the first of the measures commenced, profitability in the beef industry has been eroded and supplies have tightened as producers liquidated their breeding herds and switched to other more profitable agricultural projects.

As a result of the plummeting supplies in 2010, other global exporters are likely to experience reduced competition from Argentinean beef in export markets.

Argentina will concentrate on rebuilding the herd for the next two years as farm gate prices soar.

Brazil has the world’s largest commercial herd at about 200 million head. Brazil saw exports rise until 2007 as a result of competitive prices, a depreciated local currency and government support.

Investments in the industry have supported an increasingly professional beef industry, which has rapidly gained new markets and positioned itself with global brands around the world.

However, exports from this market have decreased in 2008 and 2009 as a result of tightening supplies, lower competitiveness, a partial ban on exports to the E.U. and a more profitable domestic market.

Exports from Brazil are expected to recover on the back of increased productivity, although growing at lower rates than in the past decade.

Food safety issues continue to drive government food policy as evidenced by the Canadian government’s release of a final report on the steps it’s taken to improve food safety nationwide.

The steps are based on recommendations of an independent investigator that began in the wake of that country’s deadly listeriosis outbreak in 2008.

“Food safety is a priority for this government,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a news release about the report, which outlines the government’s efforts to reduce food safety risks, improve surveillance and early detection of foodborne pathogens and illnesses, and improve emergency response.

For example, in 2009 the government invested C$75 million investment to improve its ability to prevent, detect and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks.

The government budget for 2010 added C$13 million annually for two years to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to boost inspection capacity for meat and poultry processing facilities.

Another C$100 million was budgeted over five years, beginning in fiscal 2011, to invest in inspector training, tools and technology, and science capacity.

Most of the U.S. Meat Export Federation’s (USMEF) retail demand-building activities in Mexico – the largest destination for U.S. beef exports – are conducted with large, national retailers and distributors in major metropolitan areas.

But, as the U.S. beef industry works to expand its presence in Mexico, the beef checkoff program recently authorized USMEF to launch a new outreach campaign with regional supermarket chains in the northern region of the country.

Ranging from 170 store locations to 34 locations, these supermarket chains are of significant size – and constitute an important target market for U.S. beef. Chains participating in the program include Casa Ley (170 stores), Calimax (72 stores), Sante Fe (60 stores) and Super Del Norte (34 stores).

The Uruguayan beef industry has made important efforts in its traceability and food safety procedures, which helped to achieve market access to the U.S., the only South American market to achieve this.

However, in recent years, they have been focused on the higher value E.U. market due to lower supplies from Brazil and Argentina.  end_mark

Clint Peck is the owner of Global Beef Systems, LLC.