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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The economics of beef production in British Columbia Menzie, Elmer Lyle

Abstract

This thesis is a study of the economics of beef production in British Columbia with emphasis on marketing and on the nature and growth of the industry in the Province. The objective has been to obtain information which would assist in arriving at some conclusions with respect to the future of the industry. The study included an analysis of the following features of the industry: (l) its size and importance; (2) the expansion, structure and growth of the cattle population including a study of the cattle cycle; (3) trends in marketings by grades and classes; (4) consumption of beef and the factors which affect domestic and foreign demand; (5) the fluctuation of prices and a study of market spreads to indicate the extent of price imperfections; (6) trends in production and marketing costs. The study indicates that beef production is an important part of the agricultural economy of the Province, with about 12 per cent of the income to agriculture being derived from the sale of cattle and calves. About 50 per cent of the beef requirements of the Province are home produced and with a continuation of past growth in income and population a market for increasing amounts of beef is in prospect. Cattle numbers on farms in British Columbia have almost doubled during the period 1920-1953, although the rate of growth since 1939 has been slower than in the earlier years. Cattle numbers per capita have been decreasing since 1920, but due to improved production techniques supplies of beef per capita have increased. The study indicates that the growth in cattle numbers has not been constant but shows tendencies to follow cycle patterns. The completed cycles noted from 1906 to 1939 were about eight years in length for British Columbia and ten to twelve years for all Canada. Since the low point in cattle numbers in 1939 the cycle length seems to have increased for British Columbia and is showing signs of following the pattern of growth of cattle numbers for all Canada. The study also indicates that cattle marketings in British Columbia have been increasing but that considerable fluctuation has existed. Some trends were noted with respect to marketings by classes. The patterns of seasonal marketings by classes for British Columbia were different in most cases from those noted for all Canada; differences occurred also in the seasonal marketing patterns of different classes of animals within each area studied. Slaughterings in inspected establishments have been, increasing and the percentage, of animals rejected or condemned has been decreasing. About 60 per cent of the beef carcasses graded in British Columbia are grade "A" or "B". The demand for beef in Canada has been increasing since 1930. With income and population both increasing at 2 to 3 per cent per year the domestic demand for beef is continually strengthening. Exports too, (chiefly to the United States) have been an important factor in the Canadian beef trade. Prices vary seasonally according to marketings, type of animals and general economic conditions. Highest prices generally appeared in June, July and August for the best grades, with the lowest prices occurring from January to March and October to November. The study also indicated that prices between markets were not always perfect. Cases have occurred when price differences between markets were greater than the costs of transportation, handling and storage. Considerable variation was shown to exist from year to year in the farmer's share of the amount received by wholesalers for slaughtered animals. Costs of beef production in the period 1930-1953 rose considerably as did beef prices. However, the position of the industry appears to have improved as beef prices have risen relatively more than most costs.

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