General Livestock, Except Dairy and Poultry

SIC 0219

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This classification covers establishments deriving 50 percent or more of their total value of sales or agricultural products from livestock such as cattle, hogs, sheep, and goats, but with less than 50 percent deriving from any single one of those livestock categories.

The multifaceted, diversified livestock farm had faded from the American landscape by the early 2010s because of industry emphasis on specialization. Large farms focused on raising a single animal had begun to replace diversified farms and ranches by the beginning of the 2010s. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2009, there were approximately 2.2 million farms in the United States, encompassing 919.8 million acres. The average farm size was 418 acres. Farms are classed into five groups based on value of sales with breaks at $10,000, $100,000, $250,000, and $500,000. Between 2008 and 2009 the number and size of farms remained relatively stable.

The smallest farms (sales of less than $10,000) account for 55.5 percent of all U.S. farms but only about 11.5 percent of farm lands. Farms with sales of $500,000 and over made up approximately 5.7 percent of the industry and accounted for 31.5 percent of land. The average size of the smallest grossing farms was 196 acres, compared to the largest farms, which averaged over 16,700 acres. On smaller and mid-sized farms, farmers often graze herds on unused crop land, which make cattle raising a lucrative side business. Many smaller farms were able to support small to moderate-sized herds this way. Another factor working against smaller operations was the push by the USDA to upgrade the National Animal Identification System. Such a system would require all animals be identified through the system from farm to slaughter to shelf so that the meat could be traced back to its source within 48 hours of identification of a disease outbreak. Based on economies of scale, implementing such a system would be more expensive for smaller operators.

Beef cow operations totaled 753,000 in 2009, down just 1 percent from 2008, and milk cow operations totaled 65,000, down 3 percent from 2008. Farms with hogs totaled 71,450 in 2009, down 2 percent from 2008. Sheep and goat operations accounted for smaller fractions of the farming industry. Like the cattle industry, many hog producers became increasingly larger operations as well. Between the mid-1950s and the late years of the first decade of the 2000s, the number of U.S. hog farms declined from nearly 3 million to just 67,000. Consolidation within hog operations was particularly acute during the late years of the first decade of the 2000s as traditional hog farms gave way to highly technical, totally enclosed hog containment facilities. By 2009, hog facilities with more than 2,000 head accounted for 86 percent of the hog industry, and more than 50 percent of hog farms had more than 5,000 hogs.

This does not mean that ranchers and farmers have given up on diversifying their operations. The species of livestock and the character of the business have changed, though, over the years, and those establishments that fit in this classification are apt to be small, family-run outfits. The number of these small operations continued to decline in the 2010s. Larger operations were running into difficulties of their own, however, particularly related to meeting growing environmental concerns related to the effect of major livestock operations. In the late years of the first decade of the 2000s, the Environmental Protection Agency began gathering data on greenhouse gas emissions caused by cattle and dairy operations, potentially causing farmers to adjust their manure management operations

Historically, cattle and sheep bred in America did not graze the same land; indeed, cattlemen and sheepherders often viewed each other as rivals. This has changed, however, as studies have indicated that running cattle and sheep together helps keep predators at bay. Sheepherders now believe that coyotes are intimidated when cattle are present, thus drastically cutting sheep losses. Running the two species together is also becoming popular for another reason. The overgrazing of plant species is decreased because the cattle eat the grasses while the sheep eat broad-leafed weeds, forbes, and shrubs. Running the two species together is thus a growing phenomenon in parts of the country to both protect the livestock and the land.

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