Cattle inventories in Manitoba fell at one of the fastest rates in the country in 2013 despite soaring beef prices and a recent return to profitability for many producers.
Statistics Canada data released Wednesday show there were 1.1 million cattle on Manitoba farms at the start of 2014. That was 2.7 per cent, or 30,000 head, fewer than at the start of 2013 and 12.4 per cent, or 155,000 head, fewer than on July 1, 2013.
It was the second-biggest yearly decline in the country and nearly four times the national average decline of 0.7 per cent. The half-year drop was the third-highest and nearly three percentage points above the national average of 9.8 per cent.
The cattle inventory includes beef and dairy animals. The biggest drop was in the number of beef cattle -- down 2.7 per cent, or 30,000 head, to 1.02 million from 1.05 million at the start of 2013. The number of dairy cattle fell by 1.3 per cent to 80,500 from 81,600.
The Manitoba Beef Association's new general manager, Melinda German, said herd counts are down because some producers took advantage of higher prices and sold some cattle to pay down debt, and others sold their herds because they were retiring.
"This year is definitely the year we will be looking for a rebuilding of inventories, both in Canada and in North America," German said.
Statistics Canada also released data on hog and sheep inventories as of Jan 1. They showed Manitoba's hog herd grew by 0.4 per cent to 2.85 million from 2.84 million at the start of 2013. That was one of the smallest increases in the country and less than half the national average gain of 1.1 per cent.
The province's sheep herd grew by 3.3 per cent to 62,000 from 60,000. Manitoba was one of only two provinces to see a rise in sheep inventories in 2013.