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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Beef Cow Inventory from the 1997 Census of Agriculture

Farm Business Management Update, February 2000

By Jim Pease

Livestock inventory in the Census of Agriculture reflects the number reported by farmer operators as on the farm on January 1, 1997. The Census reports that beef cow inventory in Virginia rose slightly from 1992 to 1997. The inventory of 688,000 cows in 1997 represented a two percent increase from 1992 (see Table 1). However, the number of Virginia farms with beef cows fell by 3 percent to 21,750. Most of the farms that disappeared from the Census were the smallest beef farms of 1-19 cows. Farms of the larger size brackets (50-99 and 100 plus) each went up by 4 percent, while 927 of the smallest beef farms disappeared from the Census. The average number of cows on Virginia beef farms was 32 cows in 1997, up slightly from the average of 30 cows reported in 1992. As indicated in the table below, the largest 1,199 beef farms (those with 100 or more cows) had in inventory nearly 213,000 beef cows in early 1997, an average of 177 cows per farm. The very largest beef farms (those with 500 or more cows) had nearly 26,000 cows among 35 farms, an average of 738 cows per farm. Two medium size groups (with 20 to 99 cows) comprise 42 percent of beef farms and have 54 percent of beef cows. At the small end of the size spectrum (1-19 cows), 11,200 farms or 52 percent of beef farms had 107,000 beef cows in inventory, only 16 percent of all Virginia beef cows. These small farms average only 10 cows per farm.

Table 1. Virginia Beef Cow Farms and Beef Cow Inventory by Size Group, 1997
Number of Cows Number of VA Beef Farms Number of VA Beef Cows
1-19 11,232 (52%) 107,125 (16%)
20-49 6,825 (31%) 205,442 (30%)
50-99 2,497 (11%) 163,230 (24%)
100+ 1,199 (6%) 212,744 (30%)
TOTAL 21,753 688,541

Central Extension District had 5,347 beef cow farms in 1997, or 25 percent of all Virginia beef cow farms (see Table 2). Central Virginia Planning District has 32 percent of all beef cow farms in the district. However, this district lost 128 beef cow farms from 1992 to 1997, a decrease of 7 percent. Bedford County had the largest number of farms of any county in the district, but Bedford lost more than 9 percent of its beef cow farms from 1992 to 1997, and 8 of these lost farms had 100 or more cows. Pittsylvania County was the second most important beef cow county, with 667 farms in 1997. Pittsylvania also lost smaller farms but increased its number of farms with more than 100 cows. The third most important beef cow county in Central Extension District was Franklin with 553 farms. Franklin County lost only 2 percent of its beef farms from 1992 to 1997.

Table 2. Number of Beef Cow Farms by District and Size Group, 1997

  Size Group (Cows)
  1-19 20-49 50-99 100+ TOTAL
Central 2653 1748 660 286 5347
Northeast 471 223 68 31 793
Northern 1648 1113 483 304 3548
Northwest 2139 1453 547 285 4424
Southeast 263 160 57 18 498
Southwest 4058 2128 682 275 7143

Northern District had only 16 percent of all Virginia beef cow farms in 1997, but had 25 percent of farms with more than 100 cows. Rappahannock-Rapidan Planning district alone had 14 percent of the stateıs largest beef cow farms, with Fauquier and Loudon counties leading the way. These two counties had 8 percent of the largest beef farms in Virginia. The Rappahannock-Rapidan Planning District has a very different distribution of farm sizes then does the rest of the state. Only 15 percent of beef farms had 1-19 cows, while 25 percent of farms had 100 or more cows. Fauquier and Loudon counties actually increased their number of beef farms.

Northwest District has 20 percent of Virginia beef cow farms. The size distribution of farms is similar to that of the state, but the district has 24 percent of state farms with more than 100 cows. Central Shenandoah Planning District has 52 percent of beef cow farms in the district, with large numbers of such farms in Augusta (19 percent) and Rockingham (18 percent). Augusta County predominates in larger farms, having 28 percent of the districtıs largest farms, an increase of 40 percent in farms with more than 100 cows since 1992.

Southwest District has a somewhat larger percentage of the smallest farms (57 percent) and a somewhat smaller percentage of the largest farms (4 percent) than does the state, but the District has fully one-third of all Virginia beef cow farms. The predominant planning district is Mount Rogers, with 42 percent of all district beef cow farms. Washington County has by far the most beef farms (922), followed by Scott (772), Lee (656), and Russell (654), but Wythe and Smyth counties have the largest number of farms with more than 100 cows (37 and 34, respectively).

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