Gordon King, Animal Science, University of Guelph

Producer Concerns

Livestock production systems change in response to economics, technological innovations and consumer demands. In the past land and labor represent a substantial proportion of production costs for most farms throughout the world. More recently, farm labor became scarce and expensive in the more developed countries, fostering greater reliance on mechanized equipment with the accompanying increased capital investment. Thus, economic necessity stimulates abundant use of agrochemicals, which are relatively inexpensive, to increase yield per land unit and livestock feed efficiency. A recently added dimension, that should have even greater impact on future production systems, is concern about potential ecological damage caused by domesticated animals and their possible role in preserving or improving our environment. Throughout the industrialized world today, livestock producers' major concerns now relate to both economic and ecological uncertainties. More specific areas of concerns might be summarized as follows:

Production Risks:

New Technologies:

Marketing Systems:

Land Use:

Socio-economic conditions:

Consumer Preferences:

The per capita consumption of meat remained reasonably stable over the past two decades but the proportions accounted for by various commodities changed considerably (see following table). The number of eggs marketed per person fluctuated somewhat from year to year but the trend was for a gradual increase.

In contrast to the situation with meat or eggs, per capita intake of fluid milk decreased. However, because of population growth, the total amount marketed showed little change. Dairy product consumption also remained stable but increases in cheese, yogurt and other specialty products were offset by reductions in butter.

Per Capita Consumption of Livestock Products

Total meat, kg Beef








Fluid milk, L Dairy pro- ducts, kg
1975 97.8 46.8 25.9 21 13.1 100 34.3
1977 97.4 46.6 25.8 21.3 12.5 100 34.1
1979 95.7 39.9 29.0 22.8 13.0 105 32.0
1981 97.1 40.9 30.3 22.6 12.8 104 34.1
1983 95.5 40.2 28.9 23.1 12.4 105 34.9
1985 97.2 38.9 28.9 25.3 11.6 102 35.1
1987 98.3 38.2 27.9 27.7 11.5 104 36.1
1989 99.5 35.2 28.6 27.0 15.2 98 36.5
1991 92.0 33.2 26.6 28.2 15.0 96 33.6
1993 90.5 30.8 27.4 29.0 14.5 91 33.2
1995 91.9 31.4 27.7 30.4 14.4 89 33.4

Government Intervention:

Economic uncertainties plague any enterprise that depends on the weather and on a free marketplace. Incomes fluctuate considerably from year to year for most commodities. Farmers seek government assistance continuously to minimize the inherent risks associated with their chosen occupation.

Many countries respond by providing various subsides, safety-nets or other income support programs. Unfortunately, many of the current agricultural subsidy programs contribute to commodity surpluses with associated prices depressions. They may also perpetuate inefficient production and inhibit entrepreneurs. Some Canadian farm groups argue that continued subsidies or protection are the only alternative that will allow our producers to survive in a global market. Others propose limited subsidy, suggesting that it is in the public interest to support many smaller or medium sized farms rather than fewer larger units. Their contention is that support should be adequate for single family farms (maximum $25,000 per one family and $50,000 per multifamily operation) with all programs having a social as well as an economic rationale. This group does not oppose farms getting larger but maintains that if they do expand beyond a reasonable family unit size, they should carry the full risk involved. A somewhat smaller segment of farmers might support the total elimination of all government support for agriculture in conjunction with unhindered access to global markets. The latter approach might, in theory, lead to the best use of resources throughout the world but, to be effective, requires fair as well as free trade.