U.S. and Canadian cattle inventory comparison

On March 5, 2014, Statistics Canada released its Livestock Estimates, January 1, 2014, report which detailed cattle, hog and sheep inventories in Canada (www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/140305/dq140305a-eng.pdf). That same day USDA-NASS released the United States and Canadian Cattle and Sheep and the United States and Canadian Hogs reports (www.nass.usda.gov).

The Jan. 1 U.S. cattle inventory numbers were also previously released by NASS on Jan. 31 in the Cattle report. Those numbers have been discussed in previous In The Cattle Market columns. In summary, all cattle and calves in the U.S. on Jan. 1 were down 1.8 percent from 2013. Beef cows were down almost 1 percent, heifers kept for beef cow replacement were up 1.7 percent, calves and feeder cattle outside of feedlots were down 2.7 percent, cattle on feed were down 5 percent, and the 2013 calf crop was down 1 percent.

There were 12.215 million cattle and calves in Canada on Jan. 1, 2014, down 0.7 percent from 2013. That slight decline follows two years of increasing cattle numbers. The total cattle herd in Canada peaked at 14.925 million head in 2005. Beef cows at 3.905 million head were down about 0.8 percent, continuing a downward trend that started in 2006. Canada's beef cow herd is just short of the 3.91 million head that were in Texas on Jan. 1. On a provincial basis, Alberta has the most beef cows at 1.591 million, followed by Saskatchewan at 1.164 million, and Manitoba at 452,000. Beef heifers held for breeding in Canada were up slightly from 542,000 head in 2013 to 542,300 in 2014, and the fourth consecutive year of increases. However, those increases from year-to-year have not been enough to keep the beef cow herd from decreasing.

On a comparative basis, total cattle numbers in the U.S. were down 1.8 percent compared to a 0.7 percent decrease in Canada. Beef cows declined almost 1 percent in the U.S. and 0.8 percent in Canada, beef replacement heifers increased 1.7 percent in the U.S. and just slightly in Canada, cattle on feed in the U.S. declined 5 percent but increased 2.6 percent in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the 2013 U.S. calf crop declined 1 percent compared to a 0.6 percent increase in Canada.

Due to my close proximity to Canada, I have had the opportunity to speak at Canadian cattle producer meetings. They seem to have the same questions and concerns as U.S. cattle producers. Canadian producers expressed some interest in expanding their beef cow herds, but also were apprehensive given the increasing costs of production and the volatility in cattle and feed prices.

Cattle prices are higher in the U.S. than in Canada. On a U.S. dollar basis for the week ending March 21, 500-600 lb. feeder steer prices at auctions in Manitoba averaged $186.17/cwt. Compared to North Dakota auctions across the border at $225.82. Steers weighing 700-800 lbs. in Manitoba averaged $157.20/cwt. compared to $180 in North Dakota. Alberta direct, mostly Select, slaughter steer prices averaged $127.97 compared to the U.S. 5-area direct slaughter steer average price of $150.87.

The Markets

Fed cattle prices continued to increase seasonally last week and set another record high. However, boxed beef prices moderated from last week's record high levels. Across the 5-area market, liveweight steers averaged $152.21 per hundredweight up $1.34 for the week. Dressed weight prices increased $2.09 to average $243.53 for the week. Choice boxed beef prices averaged $239.57 down $2.84. The Choice-Select spread increased seasonally to $7.12, the highest value for 2014. Calf markets continued to move seasonally higher with good demand for grass calves. Heavier weight feeder cattle prices were mixed and generally in a plus $2 to minus $2 range. 700-800 lb. feeder steers were up $1.79 in Oklahoma but down $1.91 in Montana. Corn prices in Omaha on Thursday were up 34 cents a bushel at $4.71.


Data Source: USDA-AMS Market News

Week of

Week of

Week of




5-Area Fed Steer

all grades, live weight, $/cwt




all grades, dressed weight, $/cwt




Boxed Beef

Choice Price, 600-900 lb., $/cwt




Choice-Select Spread, $/cwt




700-800 lb. Feeder Steer Price

Montana 3-market average, $/cwt




Nebraska 7-market average, $/cwt




Oklahoma 8-market average, $/cwt




500-600 lb. Feeder Steer Price

Montana 3-market average, $/cwt




Nebraska 7-market average, $/cwt




Oklahoma 8-market average, $/cwt




Feed Grains

Corn, Omaha, NE, $/bu (Thursday)




DDGS Price, Nebraska, $/ton




MWDGS Price, Nebraska, $/ton





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