Beef Farmers of Ontario


Throughout 2018, market price fluctuations and trade uncertainties coupled with drought conditions in many areas of the province created unrest in the Ontario beef sector.  After a dry summer followed by a wet fall, the agriculture sector in the province was faced with a new set of challenges with high levels of vomitoxin (DON) reported in the Ontario corn crop.

On a positive note for our industry, the Ontario Corn Fed Beef program, led by the Ontario Cattle Feeders’ Association, continues to see growth particularly in international markets like Japan. The Canadian ratification of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) announced in 2018 presents tremendous opportunity for Canadian and Ontario beef.


The Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) is continuing to develop a number of initiatives that will create industry stability in the province for new and existing beef farmers and their families from the cow-calf sector through to our industry partners in the processing sector.


Market Information

A snapshot of Ontario’s beef industry in 2018:

  • Feeder cattle prices in Ontario are below 2017 prices and below the five-year average. Most weight categories are steady to slightly higher than 2016 prices with the exception of cattle 600-800 lbs. which are below 2016.
  • Feeder cattle volumes sold through Ontario auction markets are at the lowest levels reported in the last 18-years (as of July 1, 2018) however, volumes increased considerably in the second half of the year.
  • For the first half of the year, rail grade prices in Ontario traded within a $10 cwt price range, while the second half of the year prices traded within a $20 cwt price range. Prices remained below the breakeven from April to October and for the remainder of the year prices were at a breakeven.
  • Carcass weights have remained steady to 2017, 2016 and 2015 weights.
  • Federally inspected processing volumes in Ontario for fed steers are up 2.69%, heifers are up 0.3% and cows are up 15.4% from 2017.


Government Relations

Provincially, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, Doug Ford was elected as Ontario’s 26th Premier following the 2018 Ontario general election held in June. Later that month, Premier Ford announced his new cabinet, including The Honourable Ernie Hardeman as Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Since August, BFO directors and staff have met with Minister Hardeman on several occasions and continue to build relationships with all MPPs and cabinet ministers at Queen’s Park.

Primarily, BFO requested that the Ontario government expedite the implementation of their commitment to increase Ontario’s investment in the Risk Management Program (RMP). Given trade uncertainties and rising input costs, RMP is more important to Ontario’s farmers now than ever before.

Other priorities that BFO has addressed with MPPs are the need for the establishment of perimeter fencing and improved Crown land access to support industry growth in the beef sector, the request to improve Ontario’s Wildlife Damage Compensation Program, the need to address changes to the Ontario Feeder Cattle Loan Guarantee Program, and the value of reducing the administrative burden of nutrient management requirements.


Federally, BFO’s meetings with MPs have focused on federal participation in the long-term strength and competitiveness of Canada’s agriculture industry, international trade, Health Canada’s proposed food guide revisions, humane transportation of cattle, and on investment in sufficient and equitable business risk management BRM programming.



Dry Conditions

Drought conditions gripped many parts of the province in the summer of 2018. In July and September, BFO requested that our farmers complete a survey to help BFO quantify the impact of the drought on beef operations across the province and to help guide BFO in its next steps to address the impacts of the dry conditions.

After some timely rains in the month of August in many parts of the province, the results of our September survey showed that conditions had improved across much of the province, with 69 per cent reporting improved forage conditions.


However, one-third of counties and districts reported that the majority of their region was still suffering from moderate to severe drought conditions. Representatives in these regions expressed serious concerns about the ability to meet fall and winter forage demands.


As a result, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs Hardeman, submitted a letter to the federal government to initiate a federal Livestock Tax Deferral for Ontario to reduce the tax burden for those forced to sell off their livestock, similar to what was announced for regions in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec.


Policy Review

BFO’s policy department continues to address proposed policies and regulations affecting the beef sector by providing comments to the appropriate government ministries on a number of critical files. Current issues include, but are not limited to: traceability, livestock transportation, wildlife damage compensation, livestock emergencies, the Canadian Agriculture Partnership, antimicrobial resistance and use, feed regulations and phosphorus loading in the Great Lakes.


BFO in meetings during a fly-in day in Ottawa

Elora Beef Research Centre

In 2017, the Ontario government announced a capital investment of $12.4 million for the construction of a new beef cattle research centre in Elora, Ontario. The Canadian government announced a $2 million AgriInnovation investment, which will be used to support valuable genetic, environmental and sustainability research to be conducted at the new facility. In addition to government support, BFO also contributed $1.5 million to the
new build.


Throughout 2018, construction remained relatively on schedule to modernize the new facilities, which includes two new cow-calf barns, a new handling area, renovations to the existing feedlot facilities, a new site office and researcher facilities.


New beef research equipment has also been purchased, including feed intake monitoring units, genomics lab equipment, greenhouse gas monitoring equipment, metabolism lab equipment, among others.


It is anticipated that the first wing of the facility will be ready for use in late spring/early summer of 2019 with the main herd of cows moving into the new barn after pasture.


Support for the reinvigoration of this facility is extremely important to the long-term strength and success of Canada’s beef industry and the broader economy it supports.


Producer Engagement


In an effort to engage with the new generation of farmers in the beef sector, BFO initiated a new youth engagement program for farmers ages 18 to 40 in the spring of 2018. Throughout the year, the bfoUP program hosted a webinar series on relevant topics such as financing, starting a beef operation, family succession, community pastures and the Beef Breeder Co-operative program. In total, BFO hosted seven webinars with an average attendance of 40 people participating in each session. Plans to continue these efforts, as well as scheduled face-to-face meetings and networking opportunities are underway.


Grazing Cover Crop Field Days

For a second year in a row, BFO partnered with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and the Grain Farmers of Ontario to host a series of field days to bring together cash crop and livestock farmers who are interested in the concept of grazing cattle on cover crops, which presents both economical and environmental benefits for both parties. A total of 60 farmers attended one of three events.


Market Development and Consumer Engagement

BFO’s Marketing & Promotions Committee and staff were busy in 2018 executing a number of market development and consumer engagement initiatives.


Consumer Research

In 2018, BFO completed a significant consumer research project with Hill + Knowlton Strategies based in Toronto. The results from the consumer surveys and focus groups will play a major role in the development of consumer messaging to support Ontario beef, Ontario beef production, and Ontario beef farmers.


Collaborative Partnership Program

A number of applications have been approved under BFO’s Collaborative Partnership Program (CPP), which was developed to stimulate industry alignment and encourage collaboration with industry partners and organizations to enhance the overall impact of BFO’s market development initiative. As of December, 10 applications were approved through the CPP totaling more than $150,000 in committed funds. Marketing-related projects submitted by Enright Cattle Company, Flanagan Foodservice, Norwich Packers, Artisan Farms, Penokean Hills, Local Farm Food Co-op and Ryding Regency have all been approved.


Resource Development

BFO staff focused efforts in 2018 on digital resource development and have completed a number of projects that will be launched in 2019 with a refreshed consumer website. These efforts include a consumer video highlighting Ontario’s 2018 The Environmental Stewardship Award Winner, Sandra Vos; recipe and video development with a focus on quick and culturally diverse meals; and three videos based on BFO’s Wondering About series of resources – Wondering About Animal Care, Wondering About Beef Nutrition and Wondering About What Beef Cattle Eat.


Consumer Engagement

BFO participated in a number of consumer engagement events in 2018 alongside Farm & Food Care Ontario, Canada Beef and a number of commodity organizations in the province. From farm tours for registered dieticians, a Breakfast on the Farm event at a beef feedlot, to a pop-up event at Union Station in Toronto, BFO had the opportunity to engage with thousands of consumers and influencers from Ottawa and Toronto.


For more information, please visit the BFO website at






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