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The Global Cattle Cycle

Canfax Research Services presents the fourth fact sheet in the series sponsored by Merck Animal Health.

Global cattle inventories have declined 2.8 per cent since 2004. Global beef production has declined only 0.6 per cent, with productivity gains offsetting some of the decline in numbers. As productivity gains occur in reproductive efficiency, survival rates and carcass weights, fewer cows are actually needed to produce the same amount of beef. It also means that for every cow removed from the herd a larger volume of beef is being removed and further productivity gains are needed to offset the loss.

Global inventories appear to have stabilized in 2012 as higher prices have slowed and/or stopped the liquidation that has been occurring in many countries. However, in the current market situation of record high crop prices, everything is about relative margins. Even if beef cattle are profitable expansion may not occur in these countries if crops provide an even higher return on land, capital and labour. Profitability has simply prevented further declines as producers maintain a level of diversification for risk management and land stewardship purposes. Producers, particularly in regions where mixed production dominates, are choosing the commodity that provides the highest return. Consequently, expansion of the beef herd domestically and globally is expected to be slower than in the past.

This special issue looks the cattle cycles around the world in other beef exporting and importing countries. It examines what this means for future supplies and demand from these countries and the implications on global trade. The full document is available at

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