Florida is known for its tourist attractions, sunny beaches, and interesting wildlife. As a farming state, its reputation is lacking. For over 5 centuries, however, the cattle industry has had an important and positive impact on the local economics of this state. Many of the farms which operate within the state are multi0-generational and have provided consistent employment opportunities for local residents.
Cattle owners have been so efficient at managing their land resources, in fact, that the state has won numerous awards for their overall conservation efforts. The state has even received the National Cattlemen’s Environmental Stewardship Award.
Cattle were first introduced to North America in 1521 through what would become the State of Florida by Juan Ponce de Leon. Since then, the industry has worked diligently to ensure cattle products are healthy, safe, natural and wholesome. This includes a thorough process of animal identification to maintain individual cow health records.
Important Florida Cattle Industry Statistics
#1. Cattle owners in Florida own over 1 million bulls, heifers, and cows. About 800,000 calves are produced each year within the Florida cattle industry as well. That creates a total breeding herd value of nearly $850 million. (Florida Department of Agriculture)
#2. The annual calf crop that is produced by cattle owners in Florida has an estimated value of almost $400 million. (Florida Department of Agriculture)
#3. Florida cattle owners create a total economic impact for the state that is over $900 million each year in the beef industry alone. Dairies contribute another $400 million in receipts each year. (Florida Department of Agriculture)
#4. There are an estimated 100,000 dairy cows living in Florida right now. These farms produce about 2 billion pounds of raw milk each year. (Florida Department of Agriculture)
#5. As of 2009, Florida was home to 50% of the largest cow/calf operations currently working in the United States. (Florida Department of Agriculture)
#6. There are 3.2 million acres of pasture are currently being managed by Florida farms right now. Another 1.3 million acres are classified as being “grazed woodlands.” (Florida Department of Agriculture)
#7. In 2016, Florida was ranked 10th in the United States for the size of its beef cow herd. About 3% of the beef cows managed in the United States are located in Florida. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#8. In terms of total inventory, Florida ranks 13th in the United States when beef and dairy cow population numbers are combined. With 1.04 million head of cattle, about 2.6% of the total U.S-based herd is managed by the Florida cattle industry. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#9. Florida dairy farms produce about 1.2% of the U.S. total of milk that is consumed each year. The dairy cow herd is ranked 19th in size in the country and represents about 1.3% of the overall total. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#10. Okeechobee County is home to the largest cow population for the Florida cattle industry. About 180,000 head are based in the country. Highlands County comes in second, with 127,000 head, while Osceola County is third, with 97,000 head. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#11. About 98,000 dairy cattle reside in Okeechobee County, representing almost the entire dairy herd that is managed by the Florida cattle industry. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#12. There are currently about 17,000 cattle ranches currently operating within the State of Florida. One of those ranches is the largest beef producer in the United States. (The Highlands Sun)
#13. Calves that are produced by the Florida cattle industry are one of the fastest selling in the national industry. The average time spent in the auction ring for a calf produced in Florida is less than 10 seconds. (The Highlands Sun)
#14. On average, larger dairy herds in Florida produce more milk, produce better quality milk, and have better reproduction rates. About 40% of the dairy herd in Florida is enrolled in the Florida Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) program. (The Cattle Site)
#15. The average size of a dairy herd in the DHI program is 644. About 50 herds are currently participating in the program. (The Cattle Site)
#16. The average dairy herd in Florida is able to produce about 18,600 pounds of raw milk per year. (The Cattle Site)
#17. The fat percentage of milk produced by Florida farmers has been relatively consistent since 1993, ranging for 3.5% to 4% in the final product. (The Cattle Site)
#18. 21% of the average dairy herd in Florida are dry cows, averaging 74 days of being dry per individual. (The Cattle Site)
#19. The average age of an individual cow in Florida’s dairy herds is 44 months. This average age has been consistent since 1993. (The Cattle Site)
#20. Most of the dairy herds managed in Florida consist of Holstein cattle. The largest dairy herd is believed to have 5,000 cows. (Florida Dairy Farmers)
#21. There are only 130 dairy farms currently operating in Florida. Most of these farms are owned by second-generation and third generation families. (Florida Dairy Farmers)
#22. Dairy farmers in Florida recycle over 170,000 tons of byproducts each year with their herds, such as cottonseed, citrus pulp, or brewers’ grain, which would normally go to a local landfill. (Florida Dairy Farmers)
#23. The average dairy cow in Florida weighs about 1,400 pounds. That means each cow in the state weighs about the same as a polar bear. (Florida Dairy Farmers)
#24. Each dairy cow in Florida is able to produce up to 8 gallons of milk per day. Farmers typically milk their cows 2 or 3 times per day. This generates 277 million gallons of milk that are sold at local grocery stores.
Florida Cattle Industry Trends and Analysis
The Florida cattle industry may not be large. It may not generate the same levels of economic impact that can be found in other farming states. What this industry does provide is consistency. There is slow, steady growth found on the ranches and farms of Florida, providing opportunities that have been refined through multiple generations of farming innovation.
Some ranches are on their sixth generation of raising cattle in Florida. You’ll find ranchers still using dogs and horses to round up their herds, using the practices that have been employed on their lands for 200+ years.
There are some advantages that come with managing cattle in Florida. The climate provides cattle with year-round access to pastures, which improves the quality of beef. More farms and ranches in Florida raise beef cattle than grow oranges.
New practices, such as moving calves to the Midwest once they reach a certain weight to complete the finishing process, is helping to promote higher revenues too. Florida may never be a national leader in the cattle industry. For those working in it, that’s fine by them. By using time-honored practices, they create a stable economic contribution to their state.