For the most part Cattle USA needs to be looked at as two separate industries, Beef Cattle and Dairy Cattle. Both Beef Cattle and Dairy Cattle are found in all 50 states and though it is changing somewhat most are still in the hands of family farms.
Cattle USA, because of the abundance of grasslands and rather large grain production have developed their beef industry so that it is for the most part separate from its dairy industry.
Beef Cattle USA
Beef Cattle USA is the largest grain fed cattle industry in the world and is basically divided into cow-calf operations and beef cattle feeding operations. It is also the largest producer of beef for human consumption. The vast majority of beef produced is of high quality grain fed beef for domestic and export. Beef Cattle USA production has for years been tied to what is called the cattle cycle. The cattle cycle is a series of ups and downs in overall cattle numbers and on average each cycle has spanned about 10 years. Since the majority of the cattle are fed out on grain in feedlot arrangements Beef Cattle USA is also affected by readily available grain, its price and supply.
More on the Beef Cattle USA Cattle Cycle
The Beef Cattle USA cattle cycle is nothing more than increases and decreases in the number of beef cattle available at a given time. Beef cattle production by its nature is a long range program that cannot change directions immediately and that is what causes the cattle cycle.
In broad terms the cattle cycle is caused by the combined effects of cattle prices, the time required to breed a cow, birth the calf and raise it to market age and weight. When prices are predicted to be high the cattle numbers grow with producers hoping to increase their profits. When increased numbers reach the point to cause prices to start going down due to overproduction the overall numbers begin to fall because producers cut down on numbers to eliminate some expense and stay profitable. Beef Cattle USA cattle cycles will general run from 8 to 12 years and average about 10 years. One of the major effects for varying lengths of the cattle cycles can be caused by extreme drought conditions. Extreme drought can adversely affect both pastures and harvested hay or forage supplies that will lead to a shorter cycle. An extended cattle cycle can be caused by the slower build up in herd numbers.
Beef Cattle USA Cow-Calf Operations
Cattle USA cow-calf operations are typically used for utilization of land not suited or needed for crop production. A successful cow calf operation is dependent on adequate range and pasture for forage. Production of adequate forage is dependent on variations in the average level of rainfall and temperature on the range. Beef cows harvest forage from grasslands to maintain themselves and raise a calf with very little, if any, grain input. The cow is maintained on pasture year round and so is her calf until it is weaned.
When the calf is weaned and if extra forage is available some calves may be kept as stockers for additional grazing and growth until the following spring when they are sold. Beef Cattle USA on average is made up of cow herds of less than 40 head. However a little over half of all the cows are in herds of over 100 head and this group accounts for around 10 percent or a little less of all the cow calf operations. It is probably safe to say that all of the 40 head size herd operations are dependent on additional income from another source to remain sustainable.
Beef Cattle USA Feedlots
Beef Cattle USA feedlots are fairly concentrated in the Great Plains. However they are also found in parts of the Corn Belt, the Southwest and Pacific Northwest. Beef Cattle feedlots are known for producing high quality beef that grades select or better. This is accomplished by feeding a nutritious ration made up of grain and other concentrates for about 140 days. The time frame an animal spends in the feedlot is usually determined by its weight at placement, the feeding or weather conditions and desired finish. Most of the feeding periods will run from 90 to as long as 300 days. The Beef Cattle USA industry expects the animals to gain 2.5 to 4 pounds per day and consume about 6 pounds of dry weight feed for each pound of gain. Before being placed in a feedlot a calf is reared mostly on grass and forage. The feedlot diet is most always a balanced ration made up of 70 to 90 percent grain and protein concentrates.
The majority of the Beef Cattle USA feedlots have a capacity of 1,000 head or less but historically they have fed and marketed a small percentage of USA fed cattle. On the other hand the feedlots with more than 1,000 head capacity account for less than 5 percent of the total feedlots and market up to about 90 percent of USA fed cattle. The Beef Cattle USA industry is continuously going towards a smaller number of larger and more specialized feedlots. These specialized feedlots are becoming more vertically integrated with the processing plants and the cow-calf operations in an ongoing effort to produce higher quality fed beef.
Dairy Cattle USA
Dairy Cattle USA produces milk that has a farm production value second to beef among livestock industries in the USA and is about equal to corn production value. Dairy cattle USA is by far mostly owned and managed by family farm operations regardless of how big or how small. Most of them are also members of producer cooperatives for marketing purposes. Dairy Cattle USA produces products that include fluid milks, ice cream, butter, cheese and yogurt. For use as ingredients for processed foods they also produce dry or condensed milk and whey products. In today’s market fluid milk products and cheeses claim most of the production.
Dairy Cattle USA has seen a slow but steady increase in milk production per cow as the overall number of cows has steadily decreased. There has also been a steady decrease in the number of dairy operations and an increase of cows per operation. The result of these trends has pretty well kept pace with the demand for dairy products.
For the record Dairy Cattle USA milk production has increased by almost half since 1970 in spite of the fact that dairy cow numbers have decreased by about 25% or from about 12 million to about 9 million in the early 2000s. The actual milk production on a per cow basis has nearly doubled to where the average production per cow is around 19,000 pounds per year. In 1970 it was estimated that Dairy Cattle USA operations were around 650,000 and in the early 2000s this number was about 90,000. During this same time frame the Dairy Cattle USA herd size increased from about 20 to about 100cows.
Dairy Cattle USA is found in all 50 States with an estimated production of about 170 billion pounds of milk. The majority of this production is concentrated in 10 states. Those top 10 dairy cattle states are; California, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania. Minnesota, Idaho, Texas, Michigan, Washington and New Mexico.
The majority Dairy Cattle USA operations are scattered throughout the North and Western States. The current trend seems to be moving towards the western states and some of the other regions have declined. This trend seems to be due to the Western areas trending towards a lower cost of production believed to be due to climatic conditions.
The most prominent breed of dairy cow in Dairy Cattle USA is the Holstein because the breed is known for producing so much more milk per cow than other breeds. On average the butterfat content of Holstein milk is lower than the other breeds but it is more than made up for in the increased milk production.
It is important to note that Dairy Cattle USA pretty well remains in the hands of family farms and most of them are members of producer owned cooperatives. It is easier and more economical for the coops to assemble the member’s production and market it in larger quantities to the processors and manufacturers. In recent times a few of the coops have turned to doing their own processing and manufacturing. Initially cooperatives were all local but today Dairy Cattle USA enjoys National Cooperatives with members in all parts of the country.