Larger Feedlots Increase, Smaller Lots Decline, Census Says

U.S. feedlots with more than 500 cattle on feed increased in numbers 12% during the five year period between 2012 and 2017, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. ( Wyatt Bechtel )

U.S. feedlots with more than 500 cattle on feed increased in numbers 12% during the five year period between 2012 and 2017, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Over the same period, feedlots with fewer than 500 head on feed declined in numbers by 5%.

The 2017 Census of Agriculture, conducted by the National  Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) counted 25,776 feedlots with at least one animal, which is 3% fewer than the 26,586 feedlots counted in the 2012 Census. The 2017 Census found 15,025,052 cattle on feed, 4% more than in 2012.

The number of America’s largest cattle feedlots has gradually increased. The 2017 Census found 700 operations with 2,500 head or more on feed, combining for 10.6 million head, or 71% of the total on feed. Seven more feedlots fell into this category than five years earlier.

Feedlots with 1,000 to 2,499 cattle on feed totaled 645, or 141 more than five years earlier. Those feedlots accounted for 973,247 cattle on feed, or 6% of the total. Combined, the two largest feedlot categories (1,000 head and greater) account for 77% of the cattle on feed.

The top three categories of feedlots – those with 500 head or more – totaled 3,171 lots, accounting for 12.87 million cattle on feed (86%).

NASS reported 22,605 feedlots with fewer than 500 head, and they represent 2.15 million head (14%).

The number of feedlot operations with 1-19 head declined 16%; those with 20-49 head declined 5%; feedlots with 50-99 head increased 1.5%; those with 100-199 head were unchanged; and feedlots with 200-499 head declined 6%.

Want to learn more about the data and trends from the 2017 Census of Agriculture? Visit AgWeb.com/AgCensus2017

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