State/National Beef Production Facts

Click here for a complete list of Nebraska agriculture facts. 

Nebraska Facts

  • $12.1 billion impact to Nebraska's Economy
  • 20,000 beef cow operations
  • 1.88 million head of beef cows
  • The average herd size is 94 head
  • 4,570 cattle feeding operations statewide
  • 5.1 million cattle fed and marketed per year
  • On average there are 2.3 million head of cattle on feed
  • Only 770 feeding operations are larger than 1,000 head

U.S. Facts

  • 757,300 beef cow operations
  • 32.6 million head of beef cows
  • The average herd size is 43 head
  • 87,160 cattle feeding operations
  • 26.2 million cattle fed and marketed per year
  • 14.3 million head of cattle on feed
  • The average cattle feeding operation cares for approximately 290 head
  • Cattle and calves total 41% of the $99 billion worth of U.S. livestock and poultry sold
  • Individual or family, family held corporations, and partnerships make up 99% of the U.S. farm ownership

Where Nebraska Stacks up Nationally

1st....

Commercial red meat  2013 - 7,353,100,000 lbs (prev. yr - 7,284,000,000 lbs)
All cattle on feed  2014 - 2,450,000 head (prev. yr - 2,550,000 head)
Commercial cattle slaughter  2013 - 6,869,800 head (prev. yr - 6,730,400 head)
Commercial cattle slaughter (lbs)  2013 - 9,389,940,000 lbs live wt (prev. yr - 9,163,177,000 lbs)

2nd....

All cattle and calves  2014 - 6,150,000 (prev. yr - 6,300,000 head) 
Beef & veal exports 2012 - $840,000,000

The Nebraska Beef Cattle Industry

Its the state’s single largest industry and the engine that powers the state’s economy. The multiplied impact of the $6.5 billion in cattle sales each year is $12.1 billion. Cattle-related employment means income for businesses up and down main street in towns and cities across the state. In short, the beef cattle industry has an unmistakable impact on other economies in Nebraska.

Nebraska is Unique

The importance of cattle feeding to Nebraska’s economy runs deeper than in other states. Nearly 5 million head are finished and marketed in Nebraska, a state with a population of 1.8 million residents. Texas markets a third more cattle than Nebraska, but it has a population of 25.6 million residents over 14 times larger. Iowa markets less than 2 million cattle and has 1.2 million more residents than Nebraska. This means such states depend on other industries. Their standard of living isn’t nearly as dependent on cattle feeding as Nebraska’s.

Nebraska has the Top Cow Counties in the Nation

Nebraska has the top three beef cow counties in the U.S., including the nation’s No. 1 cow county – Cherry County, with nearly 166,000 cows. Custer County is No. 2 (100,000) and Holt County is No. 3 (99,000). Also among the top counties in the nation is Lincoln County at No. 12 (69,000).

Four Times as many Cattle as People

January 2012 figures illustrate that Nebraska continues to have far more cattle than people. Cattle outnumber Nebraskans nearly 4 to 1. Cows number 1.94 million, versus Nebraska residents who number just 1.8 million. The cows and the 4.7 million head that are annually fed in Nebraska total nearly 6.64 million cattle.

Why so much Beef in Nebraska?

Nebraska has a unique mix of natural resources. Cattle turn grass from 24 million acres of rangeland and pasture, more than one half of Nebraska’s land mass, into protein and many other products for humans. The land grazed by cattle allows more people to be fed than would otherwise be possible. More than one billion bushels of corn are produced here each year, 40% of which is fed to livestock in the state. Cattle producing families, who make their living from the land, have a strong incentive to protect their animals and the environment.

Nebraska Ag Facts

  • Cash receipts from farm marketings contributed nearly $24 billion to Nebraska's economy in 2012 and 6.2% of the United States total.
  • Nebraska's ten leading commodities (in order) for cash receipts are cattle and calves, corn, soybeans, hogs, wheat, dairy products, hay, chicken eggs, dry beans and sugar beets, which represent 98% of the state's total farm receipts.
  • Every dollar in ag exports generates $1.29 in economic activities such as transportation, financing, warehousing and production. Nebraska’s $7.3 billion in ag exports translate into $9.4 billion in additional economic activity.
  • Nebraska has 49,969 farms and ranches; the average operation consists of 907 acres ; average net income per farm was $119,002 between 2008-2012.
  • In 2013, Nebraska ranked second in ethanol production capacity, with 23 operating plants having production capacity of 1.96 billion gallons. Over 40% of the state's 2012 corn crop was utilized in ethanol production. 
  • Livestock or poultry operations are found on 50% of Nebraska farms. 
  • One American farmer/rancher produces enough food for 129 people – 95 in the United States and 34 abroad.
  • In 2011, Nebraska was 8th nationally in certified organic cropland acres (129,858 acres) and 8th in certified organic pasture acres (53,174 acres).

Nebraska’s Natural Resources

  • Nebraska’s farms and ranches utilize 45.5 million acres (18,413,270 hectares) – 93% of the state’s total land area.
  • Nebraska is fortunate to have aquifers below it. If poured over the surface of the state, the water in those aquifers would have a depth of 37.9 feet (12 meters). The state has 92,233 registered, active irrigation wells supplying water to 8.6 million acres of harvested cropland and pasture. Of the total cropland harvested during 2007, 36% was irrigated.
  • Nearly 24,000 miles (38,624 kilometers) of rivers and streams add to Nebraska’s bountiful natural resources.
  • There are nearly 23 million acres (9,307,807 hectares) of rangeland and pastureland in Nebraska – half of which are in the Sandhills.
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