A new report at the University of Minnesota has given researchers a detailed picture of the state’s beef industry, providing a pathway to better understanding the needs of producers and their animals.
Dr. Joe Armstrong, an Extension educator and veterinarian, said the study also underscores the complex birth-to-harvest route for beef cattle in Minnesota. A detailed survey spread out over 2020 and 2021 yielded responses from nearly 400 Minnesota cattle producers from 78 of the state’s 87 counties.
“In Minnesota, most beef cattle are owned by a small number of large operations. But the majority of producers still operate within a small farm model,” Armstrong said. Of the participants in the survey, 44% have less than 50 cows, and 77% have less than 100 cows, highlighting that small farms still play a major role in Minnesota’s beef industry. The heaviest concentrations of beef are in Itasca, Pipestone, Pine, Isanti, Goodhue, Nobles and Murray counties. Minnesota ranks tenth nationally in beef production, with an annual profit of more than $2 billion from beef product sales.
“The results of this survey will help dictate where we place our research efforts for the Minnesota beef industry,” Armstrong said. “We need to focus on how to encourage practices that benefit both the cow-calf and feedlot operations, with the end goal of making Minnesota beef production more economically sustainable for producers while improving environmental sustainability as much as possible.”
The study confirmed a complex series of movements in an animal’s life before it is processed for consumption. Like other livestock industries, the state’s beef market was dealt a tough blow when COVID-19 made processing unavailable to farmers.
“There was angst throughout all points in the production chain,” Armstrong observed, adding that while operations have generally returned to normal, the price discrepancy between end product and early life stages of the production chain remains an issue for the industry on a national level.
The study was commissioned by the Minnesota Beef Council. Extension and the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine conducted the research. Co-researchers were Luciano Caixeta DVM Ph.D., Tim Goldsmith DVM, Noelle Noyes DVM Ph.D., Sabina Ponicki, Melissa Runck and Jared Young.
Read the full report: Movement and Management in Minnesota's Beef Industry. There is also an executive summary of this report available.