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The state of Alberta's cattle industry

A cow is shown in a stock photo. (pexels/Jan Koetsier) A cow is shown in a stock photo. (pexels/Jan Koetsier)

According to Statistics Canada, the number of cattle and calves on Canadian farms as of Jan. 1, 2024 had dropped 2.1 per cent to sit at 11.1 million, down from 11.3 million in 2023, and the lowesttotal seen on the datesince 1989.

Alberta hasn’t been immune to the drop in cattle inventories.

"We've seen a decline in the cow herd for almost the last twenty years," said Leighton Kolk, CEO of Kolk Farms.

He says it has become more difficult for producers to keep large herds due to years of droughts and a feed shortage, which has, in turn, driven up production costs.

"Even if you want to raise cows it's really challenging right now," said Clair Fitzpatrick, a Lethbridge College agriculture instructor in the animal science program.

The challenges for producers have translated to a spike in beef prices over the last several years.

Those in the industry expect prices to keep going up, especially as warmer weather approaches.

"(Prices go) higher for beef over the barbeque season," Fitzpatrick said.

"I can't see prices going anywhere but probably up in the immediate future."

Kolk says the state of the beef industry likely won't improve until the drought ends, but a change in weather patterns is offering some hope. 

"There's some suggestions in this changing El Niño phase will actually bring some moisture back to the Prairies, so I think there's a little bit of hope we're actually going to break the drought." Top Stories

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