'The further evolution of
the bison marketing structure
and increasing consumer demand
should have a positive impact
on the continued growth of
the bison industry.'
 

Canadian Bison Industry Continues To Evolve

 

The bison industry has transitioned from a ”breeding” to a “meat” market.  Despite the impact of variable  costs and returns and the impact of BSE, the Canadian bison industry continues to respond to market forces.

Bison Industry Numbers

 

In 1996 when the first census of the bison industry was taken, there were just over 45,000 bison on 745 farms in Canada. That had grown to an estimated 145,000 in 2001 on almost 1,900 farms. The number of farms raising bison remained at just under 1900 in 2006 and the herd grew to almost 200,000 head. In 2011 the census reported just over 125,000 animals on 1,211 farms and ranches.

 

BISON POPULATION

 

1996

2001

2006

2011

Alberta

22,782

79,821

97,366

57,483

British Columbia

6,245

8,964

12,656

9,206

Manitoba

4,621

13,473

19,609

14,116

New Brunswick

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Nova Scotia

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Ontario

2,344

3,755

4,106

2,320

Prince Edward Island

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Quebec

2,236

4,192

4,322

2,380

Saskatchewan

7,006

34,781

57,395

39,334

National

45,235

144,950

195,728

125,142

Source: Statistics Canada

 

 

 

Although it was expected that there would be some liquidation with several producers retiring from the industry, the higher prices driven by strong consumer demand resulted in further liquidation.

 

FARMS & RANCHES REPORTING BISON

 

1996

2001

2006

2011

Alberta

334

950

869

571

British Columbia

57

98

121

71

Manitoba

73

157

166

108

New Brunswick

n/a

n/a

3

2

Nova Scotia

n/a

n/a

1

2

Ontario

46

58

71

60

Prince Edward Island

n/a

n/a

1

0

Quebec

56

58

69

45

Saskatchewan

175

562

597

352

National

745

1,887

1,898

1,211

Source: Statistics Canada

 

 

According to the census, just over 90% of the producers are in the four western provinces producing over 96% of the bison in Canada. The distribution of the herd has changed with the Alberta declining from 49.7% to 45.9% of the national herd. The proportion of the national herd grew in Manitoba from 10.0% to 11.3%, grew in BC from 6.5% to 7.4% and in Saskatchewan from 29.3% to 31.4%. 

 

According to the census data the average national herd size did not change. In the four western provinces average herd size grew in BC, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba and declined in Alberta.

 

 

AVERAGE NUMBER OF BISON PER FARM & RANCH

 

1996

2001

2006

2011

Alberta

68

84

112

101

British Columbia

110

91

105

130

Manitoba

63

86

118

131

New Brunswick

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Nova Scotia

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Ontario

51

65

58

39

Prince Edward Island

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Quebec

40

72

63

53

Saskatchewan

40

62

96

112

National

61

77

103

103

Source: Statistics Canada

 

 

Federally Inspected Bison Harvested - Number of Head

 

Federally inspected bison harvested in Canada was relatively stable from 2005 to 2009 and then declined substantially as is demonstrated in the table below. The declines in bison available for harvesting in 2010 and 2011 were due to reduced herd numbers combined with export of live bison for processing in the US.  

 

 

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

West

21,281

18,274

18,965

18,706

18,359

14,976

10,126

11,182

East

1,223

766

766

628

738

626

590

0

Canada

22,504

19,040

19,731

19,334

19,097

15,602

10,716

11,328

Source: Agriculture Canada

 

 

Provincially Inspected Bison Harvested – Number of Head

 

Provincially inspected bison harvesting has also been declining as federally harvested bison have a greater number of marketing options.

 

 

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012*

West

6,328

5,853

5,456

3,996

3,474

2,898

2080

1625

East

730

742

792

656

594

535

464

290

Canada

7,058

6,595

6,248

4,652

4,068

3,433

2,544

1,915

Source: Statistics Canada

*CBA Estimate

 

 

Total Federal and Provincially Inspected Bison Harvested

 

Total bison harvested in Canada in 2011 was less than half the bison harvested in 2005 reflecting the impact of the reduced herd size and live bison exports.

 

 

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012*

Total Slaughter

29,562

25,635

25,979

23,986

23,165

19,035

13,260

13,243

Source: Statistics Canada

*CBA Estimate

 

 

 Canadian Live Bison Trade with the United States

 

After the restrictions related to BSE were slowly removed, live bison exports to the US reached a high in 2008. Since 2008, there has been a decline in live bison exports due to the reduced size of the bison herd as well as heifer retention for herd rebuilding. Imports into Canada from the United States have been mainly breeding livestock. It is also important to note that finished bison processed in the United States not only serve the U.S. market but also the European market.

 

 

 

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012*

Exports               

3,513

13,255

21,127

29,670

25,850

24,553

16,627

14,000

Imports               

0

1

49

161

84

70

3

0

*CBA Estimate

 

 

Bison Meat Exports, fresh or chilled (bone-in and boneless) – Kilograms

 

Bison meat exports from Canada have declined in most years since 2005. This decline of meat products is due in part to live animals from Canada being exported to the US, harvested there and then exported to other markets.

 

 

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012*

United States

512,618

234,274

377,113

401,856

537,992

289,733

175,000

France

560,202

493,204

535,816

348,852

145,859

90,176

148,000

Mexico

   -

17,996

8,073

8,199

35,092

67,211

65,000

Germany

439,746

232,672

71,311

31,787

6,184

13,055

6,525

Switzerland

35,696

36,393

103,947

62,211

62,933

48,917

41,580

Other

43,306

31,113

3,592

15,434

48,792

62,568

43,800

Total

1,591,568

1,045,652

1,099,852

869,339

836,842

571,660

479,905

*CBA Estimate

 

 

Bison Prices

 

Marketing live animals and meat to the domestic and global markets through the strategies developed by the industry has resulted in steady price increase in live bison prices 2011 after which time prices weakened slightly and stabilized in early 2013. The standard price measure used is the hot hanging weight of grade “A” bulls.  As can be seen in the table below the prices have moved up from a low of $1.75 per pound in 2005 to about $4.00 per pound in 2011 and back to $3.85 per pound in 2012.  It is through these prices that profits have now reached the cow-calf operators to a point where they are now profitable and looking at herd expansion.

 

Year

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Price per pound – Grade  “A” Bulls

Hot Hanging Weight

$1.75

$1.85

$1.90

$2.35

$2.60

$3.35

$4.00

$3.85

Data collected by the Canadian Bison Association.

 

 

Note: Data sources include Agriculture and AgriFood Canada – Red meat Section, International Markets Bureau, Canadian Trade commissioners, Brand Canada staff and the Canadian Bison Association. 

 

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