Why Hasn’t Canada’s Cow Herd Grown Much? BSE.
The current growth of Canada’s cow herd, relative to the US cow inventory, is a study in contrasts. Over the past decade, Canadian cow inventory has seen no real growth, while the U.S. cow herd has been going through an aggressive growth phase, adding three million cows last year alone. The reason for Canada’s stagnant cow herd Mad Cow Disease.
John Masswohl, director of government and international relations at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association says that Canadian industry is just now in the final stages of shaking off the lingering effects of the BSE crisis that rocked Canada in May of 2003. The World Organization for Animal Health has given the Canadian cattle industry its fifth straight ‘Controlled Risk’ annual rating for BSE, which is the rating level just below ‘negligible risk’ which is the highest rating. Masswohl hopes next year will be the year they receive the Gold Star rating.
“We have just had our annual re-confirmation of our Controlled Risk Status, and we are very eager to get upgraded to that Negligible Risk Status. The only element that is missing is that it must be eleven years since the birth of the latest-born case. And that last one was born in 2009, which means we would be eligible for ‘negligible risk’ in the spring of 2020. And we’re very hopeful that we will achieve that Negligible Risk Status next year.”
Masswohl said it's been a roller coaster ride for Canadian beef producers over the past 16-years.
“After we had that case of BSE in May of ’03 and we lost all of our export markets overnight, we had, for at least the next two years, the biggest number of calves being born in Canada that we had seen. And the reason that happened, cull-cow prices, they were worth nothing. Rather than send that cow, and get nothing, I’m going to keep that cow, get another calf, and next year when this is all resolved, we’ll have had some benefit out of it. It took longer. For a couple of years we had very large herds, which kind of peaked about 2006 at over five million cows. And then we ran into the global economic down-turn of ‘07 – ‘08. And since that time we’ve just been flat.”
Masswohl said that, for at least Canadian Cattlemen, high prices alone are no longer a major driving influence of herd size. Today, costs matter.
“Where we’re seeing a big challenge is on the cost side. Use to just be that if prices were good you would see the cattle-numbers correspond to that as well. It’s just not happening that way.”
Masswohl will be retiring as director of government and international relations for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association at this time next year.
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