Ag Census shows more young farmers, slower decline in number of farms

The 2016 Census of Agriculture results were released on Wednesday, painting an overall picture of Canadian agriculture and how it has changed since the 2011 census.

Here’s a quick look at the high-level numbers:

  • There were 193,492 farms counted in 2016, down 5.9 percent from 2011. However, this was the lowest rate of decline in 20 years.
  • Average area per farm increased from 779 acres in 2011 to 820 acres in 2016.
  • The average age of farm operators — people making management decisions — increased from 54.0 years in 2011 to 55.0 years in 2016, which matches what’s happening in the general population.
  • Women accounted for 28.7 percent of farm operators in 2016, up from 27.4 percent in 2011.
  • The number of farm operators 35 years and younger grew for the first time since 1991, 24,120 in 2011 to 24,850 in 2016.
  • Only 8.4 percent of farms reported having a written succession plan. 16.3 percent of incorporated farms had one, while only 4.9 percent of sole proprietorships had written a succession plan.
  • 44.4 percent of farm operators did some off-farm work. 30.2 percent worked an average of 30 hours a week or more off the farm.
  • The value of land and buildings used by ag operations increased 37.5 percent, from $311.2 billion in 2011 to $427.9 billion (in 2016 constant dollars) in 2016.
  • On average, for every dollar in gross farm receipts, farms incurred 83 cents in expenses in 2015 for an expense-to-receipt ratio of 0.83. This was unchanged from 2010. Dairy and oilseed/grain had the lowest expense-to-receipt ratio, while sheep was the highest.


By sector:

  • The number of beef cattle decreased 2.4 percent from 2011 to 6,883,906 heads in 2016, while the number of operations reporting beef cattle declined 12.3 percent to 62,760.
  • The number of farms reporting dairy cows decreased 13.4 percent from 2011 to 12,895 in 2016. The total number of dairy cows fell 2.4 percent to 939,071, while the average number of dairy cows per farm rose from 65 cows in 2011 to 73 in 2016.
  • Pig numbers rose from 12.7 million in 2011 to 14.1 million in 2016, while the number of farms reporting pigs increased from 7,371 to 8,402.
  • The number of farms reporting hens and chickens increased 15.8 percent from 2011 to 23,910 in 2016. The number of birds rose from 133.0 million to 145.5 million.
  • 12.7 percent of farms reported that they sold directly to consumers in 2016. Of the 24,510 farms reported marketing directly to consumers, 96.1% sold unprocessed products such as fruits and eggs.

2016 marked the 22nd Census of Agriculture, although Statistics Canada notes agricultural data has been collected in Canada since 1666.

Related: $13 Million — StatsCan’s Reason for Running the Census of Ag During Seeding

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