What’s in a Number?

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

I have to admit that statistics was not my favorite class in college.  I don’t remember my final grade but I do remember being satisfied that I received a passing grade and would not have to re-take the class.  This small part of my past is in direct contrast to how I view statistics today.  I have always enjoyed following sports statistics as a hobby.  However, my career and farming interests have made me appreciate the importance of beef industry statistics.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) annually provides important statistical data about the U.S. beef industry.  While some of these statistics may qualify as “bragging rights”, they provide real insight about the beef industry domestically and around the globe.

As of Jan. 1, 2016, NASS reported that there were 30,330,800 beef cows in the U.S. This number is up 3.5% from the previous year.  The total number of cattle and calves reached 91,988,000 head which was up 2.4% from 2015.  These numbers certainly verify the message we have been hearing this year that beef herd expansion is fully underway.  Speaking of expansion, the top 5 states for beef cow herd expansion over the past five years are 1.Iowa; 2.South Dakota; 3.Idaho; 4.Nebraska; and 5.Missouri.

So how does Ohio stack up in terms of beef statistics?  Ohio currently ranks 29th in beef cow numbers at 284,000 head.  Ohio ranks 16th in cattle on feed with 160,000 head and ranks 10th in number of cattle/calves operations.  NASS reports that in 2015, cash receipts from cattle sales reached $740,853,000.  All of these numbers indicate that the beef industry is an important part of the overall agricultural economy in Ohio.

The top five states for beef cow numbers are 1.Texas; 2.Oklahoma; 3.Missouri; 4.Nebraska; and 5. South Dakota.  In terms of the top 50 beef cow counties, all three hail from Nebraska and are 1.Cherry Co.; 2.Holt Co.; and 3.Custer Co.  These are three geographically large counties that when combined are roughly ¼ the size of the state Ohio.  These three counties have combined beef cow numbers of 330,000 head which would make them the 28th ranked state.  Based on recent population figures, these counties have over 12 beef cows for every person that resides there.

The United States remains the dominant force in terms of global beef production.  The U.S. ranks first in world beef production tonnage with 19.2% of the total production.  The remainder of the top 5 includes 2.Brazil at 16.3%; 3.European Union at 13.0%; 4.China at 11.5%: and 5.India at 7.3%.  The U.S. accomplishes this production with the 4th highest number of cattle and calves of these top 5 countries.

Exports remain a vital part of the overall beef economy.  While values dipped from the record highs of 2014, the U.S. Meat Export Federation indicated that beef export values exceeded $6 billion for only the third time in our history.  The top five countries buying U.S. beef products (value) in 2015 were 1.Japan; 2.Mexico; 3.Canada; 4.Republic of Korea; and 5.Hong Kong.

While these numbers may not impact the daily management of your beef operation, I do believe that they can provide some insight into the size and scope of our beef industry. Yes, it is a big business with impact domestically and abroad.  Now if any of you fantasy football fanatics want to share some of your statistics for next month’s draft, I’m all ears!