OTTAWA — There were more sheep and lambs on Ontario farms on Jan. 1 than on any New Year’s Day since 2013, according to Statistics Canada.
StatCan said there were 255,000 sheep and lambs in Ontario as of Jan. 1, up from 242,000 in 2018 and the highest since 2013 when there were 264,000 sheep. This year’s inventory is the fourth-highest of the past 14 years.
Ontario Sheep Farmers general manager Jennifer MacTavish said the increase is mostly due to farmers expanding their flocks thanks to high prices at the sale barns. Prices were higher than the five-year average for most of 2018. Sheep prices peaked around $175 per 100 lb. last January, but stayed above $120 per 100 lb. for all of 2018. High prices have continued into 2019, with prices hitting almost $180 per 100 lb. in early March.
As well, the number of sheep farmers has remained static as those leaving the industry are being quickly replaced by a younger generation, said MacTavish. The average Ontario flock size is 85.
Cattle and calves
The number of Ontario beef farms is decreasing each year, but those who remain in the industry are raising more cattle.
According to StatCan, there were 16,120 beef farms in Ontario at the start of this year, down from 16,660 at the same time last year. That continues a declining trend as there were 18,815 beef farms in 2014.
However, cattlemen are raising more cattle and calves per farm, going from an average of 86 per farm in 2014 to 99 per farm at this start of 2019.
The number of pork producers has remained steady over recent years, but the number of hogs per farm continues to rise, according to Statistics Canada. At the start of 2014, there were 2,675 Ontario hog farms. This year there were 2,635 hog farms.
Meanwhile, the number of hogs per farm has steadily increased from 1,156 in 2014 to 1,353 in 2019.