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Hog, cattle herds shrinking: StatsCan

The number of hogs and cattle on Canadian farms as of July 1 was down from the same date a year earlier, while the number of sheep remained virtually unchanged, Statistics Canada reported Thursday.

Canadian hog producers on July 1 had an estimated 12.1 million hogs on their farms, down 6.7 per cent from July 1, 2008, the federal statistics agency said.

Hog inventories have been decreasing since 2006, reflecting a number of factors. These include high feed costs, low commodity prices, a strong Canadian dollar and the economic downturn. The downturn has reduced access to credit for producers and decreased meat demand by consumers.

Recently, new mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulations in the U.S. have constrained market access. The perception of the H1N1 virus has also had a negative impact on markets.

The Canadian breeding herd, mainly sows and gilts, declined 4.6 per cent to just under 1.4 million head during the last year.

During the first two quarters of 2009, hog producers nationally exported an estimated 3.3 million hogs, down 34.6 per cent from the same period last year.

Cattle

Canadian cattle producers estimated their herd at 14.8 million head as of July 1, the fourth consecutive yearly decline. The Canadian dairy herd remained slightly below two million head, while the national beef herd fell 2.4 per cent.

Total cattle exports between January and June 2009 declined 31.7 per cent from the same period a year earlier.

As cattle inventory has been declining for the last four years, domestic slaughter of cattle and calves fell 6.8 per cent in the first half of the year compared with the same period in 2008.

Sheep

The sheep industry has not experienced any growth during the past two years. As of July 1, the total sheep inventory amounted to 1.1 million, virtually unchanged compared with July 2008.

In 2003, the export market for sheep collapsed, and has remained virtually non-existent since then. The production of mutton and lamb in Canada partially meets local and regional demand; the rest is supplied by rising imports.

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