Canadian cattle market still volatile

Rob Lipsett, Beef Farmers of Ontario Vice President, addressing Grey Bruce Farmers' Week in Elmwood Tuesday, Jan. 7th, 2020 (photo by Kirk Scott)

A vice-president of Beef Farmers of Ontario says many producers are in dire straights because cattle ready for market often have no place for processing.

Rob Lipsett said beef farmers have increased production to meet worldwide demand but processors and packing plants have not kept up.

“The condition we’re in right now, the next step or result will be actual farm businesses going out of business. Family farms may be getting swallowed up by bigger corporations or land developers and that’s not good for anybody,” said Lipsett in an interview after his presentation at Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week in Elmwood.

He said farmers having to keep cattle on the farm too long after they’re ready for market are losing up to $300 a head.

“Live cattle that have been ready to go to market and have nowhere to go and it costs the farmer every day. It’s a daily expense to keep those animals, they have to be fed they have to be looked after.”

A big problem is a labour shortage for processors. Lipsett said they’d like to see restrictions eased on foreign workers. As well, a volatile market for beef means some processors are hesitant to invest and grow. Lipsett says they’d like to see governments get more directly involved in expanding capacity.

On another topic, Lipsett said producers are working to counter the perception that cattle contribute to global warming. He said the idea that methane from cattle is a huge problem is not necessarily correct.

“There’s been some good research [that has] come out of Scandinavia and the Netherlands that say Canadian grasslands and grazing beef cattle on them is what’s going to save the planet because the grasslands sequester carbon at a greater rate than trees.”

Lipsett said BFO is working to educate consumers and correct the misinformation.

Wednesday is Ecological Day at Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week. It winds up Thursday with Crops Day.