Based on the government's Feb. 1 Cattle on Feed Report, Nebraska has become the nation's No. 1 cattle feeding state. The report by the National Agricultural Statistics Service indicates Nebraska, at the beginning of February, had 2.46 million head of cattle on feed in feedlots of more than 1,000 head.
That total moved Nebraska ahead of Texas, which had 2.44 million cattle of feed. Kansas, according to the report, has 2 million cattle on feed for third in the nation.
Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, says, "Over the past decade, the Nebraska agriculture industry has worked collectively to develop the cattle, corn and ethanol sectors, knowing that together the three could have great synergy. I think our continued growth in cattle feeding, culminating in Nebraska taking over the No. 1 position, is a positive reflection of that fact."
The Cattle on Feed Report follows new preliminary Census of Agriculture figures that show growth in the number of small farms and the number of younger farmers in Nebraska.
The Census data show the average number of farms in Nebraska during 2012 was 49,969, up 5% from the 2007 Census of Agriculture. The average size of farm was 907 acres, down 5%, or 46 acres, from 2007. The number of operators under age of 34 was 4,747, up 42% from 2007 while the number of operators over the age of 65 totaled 13,177, up 1% from 2007.
"I think this collective information demonstrates that the industry's efforts to position Nebraska as a national and international leader in agriculture are coming to fruition," Ibach says. "We will continue to watch the cattle on feed figures as we expect some fluctuation in them, but the trend is certainly positive for Nebraska."
The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years.
Ibach says the increases in farms are found in the small-farm category. Higher numbers of younger farmers and ranchers, he says, "reflect the optimism that has returned to Nebraska due to profitability in the sector the past five years. Families are finding ways to bring sons and daughters back to the farm or ranch.
"This could be through the addition of livestock, which allows families to add value to an existing crop based. There is a growing recognition that this type of diversification is important for the expansion of a family operation."
Small farms benefit from higher demand for farm-to-market products, Ibach adds, which provides a good way for young or beginning farmers to get involved in the industry.