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Hungry, Cold Cows in Canada Fuel Rare Buying-Spree of U.S. Corn

Northern nation buys the most U.S. grain in decades, tightening reserves

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Photographer: Christinne Muschi/Bloomberg
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Canada is now one of the top buyers of U.S. corn as cattle ranchers scour for grain to feed their animals.

Dry conditions zapped as much as 40% of western Canada’s grain output last year, sending prices for barley and other crops to all-time highs and leaving a dearth of feed for the nation’s cattle industry. The squeeze has prompted Canada to make a rare commitment to bring in about 3.2 million metric of tons of corn from its southern neighbor, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

That’s the most in roughly two decades and compares to only 457,000 tons a year ago. Canada’s now one of the biggest purchasers alongside China, Mexico and Japan, and its buying binge is reducing already tight stockpiles of feed grains. 

“If you can’t get a car tire, that’s an inconvenience. If a cow can’t get something to eat, that’s a major problem,’’ said Bob Lowe, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.