Facts and key features of the Canadian dairy industry.
The Canadian dairy sector operates under a supply management system based on planned domestic production, administered pricing and dairy product import controls. The dairy industry ranks second (based on farm cash receipts) in the Canadian agriculture sector ranking just behind red meats.
In addition to being world-renowned for their excellence, the Canadian milk and dairy products are recognized for their variety and high-quality. Enforcement of strict quality standards on dairy farms and in processing plants enhances this international reputation, along with a strong commitment to sound animal welfare practices and environmental sustainability.
The table below highlights some key features of the Canadian dairy industry:
|Total net farm cash receipts from dairying||$7.39 billion|
|Dairy cattle population (dairy cows and heifers)||1.4343 million head (July 1, 2021)|
|Number of dairy farms||9,952 ( Aug. 1, 2021)|
|Milk production||95.12 million hl|
|Organic milk production||1.48 million hl (dairy year 2020/21)|
|Dairy manufacturing shipments||$16.2 billion|
|Number of plants||481 dairy plants|
|Fluid milk||26.7 million hl|
|Industrial milk||67.95 million hl|
|Production of main products||Cheese (498.7 thousand tonnes)
Yogurt (373.4 thousand tonnes)
Hard ice cream (163.2 thousand litres)
Butter (117.4 thousand tonnes)
Skim milk powder (85.3 thousand tonnes)
|Dairy product available per person (2019)||Fluid milk (69.2 litres)
Cheese (23.1 kg)
Cream (10.42 litres)
Yogurt (9.14 litres)
Butter (6.68 kg)
Manufacturing sector (2020)
Dairy farm operations (2016 Census of Agriculture)
|Main products imported||Cheese, butter, milk protein substances, and whey products|
|Major suppliers||United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia|
|Main products exported||Skim milk powder, cheese, whey products, products consisting of natural milk constituents and yogurt|
|Major markets||United States, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Kuwait|
|Net exports (Bovine embryos, semen and live dairy cattle)||$121.7 million|
|Net imports (Bovine embryos, semen and live dairy cattle)||$16.7 million|
|Major markets for Canadian animal genetics||United States (Dairy cattle)
United States, Spain and Germany (Dairy semen)
United States, Brazil and Australia (Embryos)
The Canadian dairy industry is famous for the superior genetic quality of its herd as well as its strong dairy cattle genetic evaluation and improvement programs. Canada is at the forefront of innovative use of genetic technologies in dairy cattle breeding. Animal DNA profiles are assessed by genomic evaluation for over 60 different traits. Genomic evaluations using imputed genotypes (3K and 50K panels) has contributed to a doubling of the rate of genetic progress for key traits.
Cows recorded in official milk recording programs produced on average 10,852 kg of milk per lactation (305 days) with an average content of 4.07% fat and 3.33% protein.
The Holstein breed is the most common dairy breed (93% of the dairy herd); Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Canadienne, Guernsey, Jersey and Milking Shorthorn breeds are also found on Canadian farms.
Manufacturing of dairy products
Manufacturing of Dairy Products
Canadians looking for healthy and nutritious products continue to have access to an ever expanding range of quality and innovative Canadian dairy products. New dairy products have been developed such as Greek-style yogurt, pre- and probiotics, lactose-free and calcium or omega-3 fortified products. Milk protein products continue to be used as ingredients in a growing array of food items, such as infant formula, sports and nutritional beverages and confectionaries.
The Canadian cheese industry has entered into a maturity phase, evidenced by its know-how developed through extensive cheese making traditions and the diversity of approximately 1,450 varieties of cheese (cow, goat, ewe and water buffalo). Many of these are recognized around the world for their quality and taste.
In 2021, imports of dairy products totaled 239,952,932 kg ($1,082.7 million) and exports reached 151,673,294 kg ($380.6 million). This represents an annual increase of 13% in import value and an annual decrease of 21.8% in export value from last year. As illustrated in figure 1 below, Canadian imports of dairy products have been consistently higher than exports.Figure 1:
Source: Statistics Canada
The table below represents the data to produce the graph above
|Source: Statistics Canada
Compiled by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Animal Industry Division, Market Information Section
Safety and Quality
Safety and Quality
Government and industry partners work in close cooperation to coordinate the movement of milk from the farm to the consumer. Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Dairy Processors Association of Canada, the Canadian Dairy Commission, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, provincial marketing boards, dairy processing companies, cooperatives and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada all work as partners to ensure a strong and dynamic industry.
Strict quality standards applied throughout Canada's production and processing chain contribute to the excellent reputation of Canadian dairy products. The main quality assurance mechanisms that ensure milk and dairy products are safe and high in quality are:
- A significant number of dairy plants are Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) and/or ISO certified.
- The on-farm food safety program "Canadian Quality Milk" is a HACCP -based and certified by CFIA .
- Sound welfare practices in the Code of Practice of the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle.
- National biosecurity standards, protocols and strategies designed to protect animal resources.
- National eradication programs for serious cattle diseases (several of which have been eradicated from the dairy herd).
- Mandatory control and monitoring in accordance with international agreements, particularly World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) agreements, protecting Canadian livestock from serious diseases.
- Development of a full traceability system is a priority in Canada which includes three basic elements: animal identification, premises identification and animal movement.
Dairy Farmers of Canada also operates the proAction Initiative, a national framework that incorporates modules on milk quality, food safety, livestock traceability, animal care, biosecurity and environmental sustainability into a single assurance program.
Research and development of new dairy products and production methods are the result of strategic alliances among producers, processors, universities, and federal and provincial research centers.
For more information contact:
Deputy Director, Dairy/Poultry section
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
1341 Baseline Road, T5-4
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0C5
Canadian Dairy Commission
960 Carling Avenue, Building No.55
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0Z2