Quebec’s milk production is an important mechanism in the economy of all regions of Quebec. The some 12,000 dairy farm operators throughout the entire province market approximately 3 billion litres of milk every year with a farm gate value of over $2 billion, or 29% of the total farm cash receipts in Quebec. Every year, dairy farms in Quebec invest nearly $350 million to maintain or improve their facilities. In Quebec, in 2011, the dairy farms provided 83,096 direct, indirect and induced jobs throughout the commodity chain, and contributed $5.49 billion to the Canadian gross domestic product (GDP). Dairy production in 2011 generated taxes of $1.26 billion for the various levels of government, including $678 million for the federal government, $454 million for the Quebec government and $123 million for the municipalities.
Nearly 37% of Canada’s farm cash receipts from milk production come from Quebec, which makes it the highest milk producing province in Canada. Quebec is the province that produces the highest volume of milk and has the highest number of farms involved in milk production. Milk production ranks third among Canadian agricultural activities, with 12.5% of the some $41 billion in total farm cash receipts.
Climate conditions, pluviometry and soil have always given Quebec advantages in the production of grasses and pastures. Quebec’s abundant supply of high-quality forage has always been a key asset in its milk production.
The size and number of farms
Quebec’s dairy farms have an average herd of 60 cows and deliver nearly 500,000 litres of milk per year. In Canada, the average herd is 79 cows. Quebec has approximately 6,000 dairy farms throughout its farmable territory compared to just over 12,500 in the entire country of Canada.
The number of farms involved in all types of production is currently in decline in practically every area of the world. The Quebec dairy sector is no exception. However, out of the Canadian provinces, Quebec is second only to British Columbia as the province with the slowest decline. The rationalization rate observed in Quebec is generally equal to or slower than that of most other countries with a large volume of milk production.
The profile of Canadian farms is more similar to that of European and north-eastern American farms than it is to the profile of farms in the western U.S. and Oceania. For example, with the size of the herds in the western United States (over 1,000 cows), Canada would barely have 900 dairy farms, and only 350 farms would be needed in Quebec, instead of the some 6,000 still active today, to produce the same quality of milk.