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A weekly report prepared by the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). If you require further information, regarding this report, call the Elora Resource Centre at 519-846-0941. Office hours: 8:30am to 4:30pm. For technical information, call the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or visit the OMAFRA website:


With the increasing cost of land in Ontario, cow-calf and backgrounding producers will increasingly be competing for rental land to access grazing. OMAFRA is developing fact sheets to enable a discussion on the value of grazing livestock for rural landowners and to help beef farmers make leases that work for long-term investments. This article features highlights and excerpts of one document-in-process to help beef producers become the ‘tenants of choice’ of non-farming landowners.

Land use challenges in Ontario

Ontario has experienced widespread conversion of forages to grain and oilseed production. The total area of Canadian crop and pasture land used for the production of soybeans, wheat and corn increased from 28 per cent in 1976 to 57% in 2011, resulting in a rapidly shrinking area of land for forage production.

At the same time farmland rental is widespread and growing. Only 60% of Ontario’s farmland is owned by farmers and 40% is owned by non-users and rental costs have risen by up to 50% in recent years.

Beef farmers know all too well what these statistics mean in practice; that they get beat out in the competition for land to be grazed, especially in year-to-year leasing situations as these lands are lost from forages to cash crops.

Good leases

Collaboration between farmers and landowners can help ensure successful, long-term rentals that encourage the production of forages and grazed livestock. Leases could stipulate that renting farmers will use specific practices (e.g., OMAFRA’s BMPs) or host landowners for an annual on-farm meeting to demonstrate improvements to farmland, infrastructure, ecological health and the value of the property.

Parting thoughts on being a preferred tenant

Landowners can benefit from ensuring livestock are grazed on rented farmland. Beef producers need to adopt expressions like ‘agroecology’, ‘habitat’, ‘soil health’ and ‘cultural heritage’ into their vocabulary to express to potential landlords the value that the grazing of beef cattle brings to rural Ontario. Especially so if they are looking for preferred terms.

Unfortunately, none of these attributes are typically measured in land rental payments, but the beauty of rural Ontario is largely the reason people return to the country and purchase farmland. Beef producers can do  their part in keeping Ontario beautiful.

Written by Christoph Wand, livestock sustainability specialist and Marion Davis, livestock sustainability specialist assistant, OMAFRA.  

For the entire article and graphs visit

Coming events

June 7 and 14 - Listowel, Day 1 and 2 - Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) workshops and webinars for Growing Forward 2 (GF2).  Visit or call 519-955-3139 for more information.

June 12, 19 and 26 - Fergus,  – Growing Your Farm Profits (GYFP) – Planning for Business Success  workshops and webinars for GF2.

Visit or call 519-955-3139 for more information.

May 19, 2017


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