Agriculture is the #1 industry in Nebraska and cattle production represents the largest segment of the industry. It's the engine that powers the state’s economy with over $6.5 billion in cattle sales each year. In short, the beef cattle industry has an unmistakable impact on almost everyone in Nebraska.
Nebraska consistently ranks as one of the top cattle producing states in the country.
Cattle are raised in every state across the U.S. for consumers all over the world.
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 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).
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.
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’s farms and ranches utilize 45.2 million acres (18,413,270 hectares) – 91% 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.
The state has 96,509 registered, active irrigation wells supplying water to 8.3 million acres of harvested cropland and pasture. Nearly 80,000 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.