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2024 outlook - Canadian cattle and hog sector trends

2024 outlook - Canadian cattle and hog sector trends


As we enter 2024, FCC says the Canadian cattle and hog sectors are bracing for a year of mixed fortunes. While cattle prices are expected to stabilize or slightly increase for most categories, the hog sector shows a more varied outlook. 

For cattle, 2023 was a year of notable price increases, particularly for 550 lb. steers, which saw a rise of over 37%. In 2024, prices for most cattle categories, except Ontario 850 lb. steers, are forecasted to either stabilize or show a slight year-over-year increase.  

This trend is good news for the sector, considering the profitability margins in the cow/calf sector are still expected to be above the five-year average. However, feedlot profitability might face challenges due to high hay prices, especially in Southern Alberta, where prices have doubled since 2020. 

The hog sector presents a different scenario. Isowean prices are projected to be lower year-over-year, with Manitoba prices for feeders and market hogs remaining stable at 2023 levels.  

Eastern Canada might see a positive trend with hog prices likely trending higher. However, margins for Isowean are expected to be close to breakeven in the East, with a slightly more favorable outlook in Manitoba. 

Two key trends worth monitoring in 2024 are feed availability and the global and domestic demand for pork. Feed costs, though easing, remain a concern with barley and corn prices still above their five-year averages. This trend is exacerbated by increasing hay prices in Alberta due to last year's drought impacting alfalfa production. 

On the pork demand front, global dynamics are shifting. China, the world's largest pork producer and consumer, is experiencing slower economic growth and population decline, leading to a decrease in its domestic pork consumption and production. This change is impacting Canadian exports, which have not reached their pre-African Swine Fever levels. 

Canadian pork producers also face challenges with a long-term declining trend in domestic demand and global economic pressures affecting export markets. However, recent price competitiveness has helped boost domestic consumption. 

2024 is shaping up to be a year of cautious optimism for the Canadian cattle sector, while the hog industry faces a more complex landscape of challenges and opportunities. As global economic and environmental factors continue to influence these sectors, Canadian farmers and stakeholders must stay agile and informed to navigate the year ahead. 

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