Cows on a dairy farm getting milked

Behind the Barn Door: All About Livestock Farms

Livestock farms

While the number of crop based farms increased between 2006 and 2011, the number of farms raising livestock decreased. Even so, livestock production is a very important segment of the agri-food sector. There is a wide variety of animals that are raised for meat ranging from widely consumed (beef, poultry, pork, lamb) to specialty products (elk, bison, rabbit). It is also important to remember that livestock is raised to produce other products, such as dairy, eggs, fur and fibre. Aquaculture is another area of livestock production.

Research and technology

Research and technology are important factors in livestock production. Improved animal care, housing, nutrition and breeding can all contribute to healthier, more productive animals and are even helping the environment. Consider the example of dairy cows: compared to 40 years ago, 50 per cent fewer cows are needed to produce enough milk for the Canadian population. That means that there is less methane gas produced and less manure, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms.114


Number of Dairy Cows and Total Milk Production, 1981-2011115
  Number of Cows (thousands) Total Milk Production (millions of kilolitres)
1981 1772.4 7.3
1986 1456.5 7.3
1991 1315.2 7.3
1996 1227.7 7.2
2001 1061.0 7.6
2006 996.0 7.4
2011 961.7 7.8

Codes of Practice

Animal welfare is extremely important in the agri-food sector. Farmers work hard to ensure that their animals are healthy and comfortable. Different livestock groups each have their own Codes of Practice. These are guidelines developed to provide requirements and recommendations on how animals in Canada should be cared for. Some of the topics include housing, feed and water, transportation, and husbandry (day to day animal care). The Codes of Practice are developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council. Scientific researchers work together with people from the industry (e.g. producers, veterinarians, processors, animal welfare organizations, etc.) to develop guidelines based on both science and consensus among stakeholders.116

Many of the Codes of Practice have been revised in recent years. Beef, equine, fox, mink, pigs, and sheep were all updated in 2013.117