How important is cattle feeding to northwest Iowa?

In honor of Beef Month, ISU Beef Specialist Beth Doran provides facts and insights into the industry

Beef cattle
Beef cattle.
Stock image by Kyle Mackie on Unsplash

ORANGE CITY, Iowa — Did you know that May is Beef Month? We are so fortunate to have a strong beef industry in northwest Iowa. Not only can we enjoy great tasting, nutritious beef, but cattle feeding also contributes substantially to our local economy.

Beth Doran MUG.jpg

In honor of Beef Month, I’d love to share some beef facts with you.

Did you know?

  • In total, 17 counties in northwest Iowa had over one million head of cattle and calves in 2021. These same northwest Iowa counties were home to over 81,000 beef cows and 64,000 dairy cows in 2021.
  • Subtracting the calves born, the cows, and first-calf replacement heifers, there were an estimated 614,000 head of feedlot cattle that would have provided an estimated 392 million pounds of boneless retail beef. Valued at the current composite retail beef price of $7.30 per pound, this beef would have been worth $2.8 billion.
  • A typical diet for a feedlot animal would have consisted of 50 bushels of corn, 1.3 tons of modified distillers grains and 1.8 tons of corn silage. Thus, the feedlot animals would have consumed approximately 30 million bushels of corn and 1.1 million tons of corn silage adding to the value of locally raised corn.
  • While in the feedlot, the cattle would have eaten an estimated 798,000 tons of modified distillers grains which would have provided an income stream to 10 northwest Iowa plants that produce 894 gallons of ethanol.
  • Cattle production in northwest Iowa was estimated to have supported 10,539 jobs in 2017 (the latest estimate available), and economists indicate that each dollar spent within a community will turn over seven times.
  • In addition, labor incomes generated by cattle production, cattle slaughter and beef processing activities are used to pay a wide range of state and local taxes.
  • Iowa currently ranks fifth nationally in feedlot production. Within Iowa, Sioux County and Lyon County are the first- and second-ranked counties for number of cattle fed.

After reviewing the numbers, it is easy to see that beef production holds a clear “steak” in our local communities. So, please enjoy a delicious piece of beef and support beef producers, transporters, processing facilities, grocery stores and restaurants.
As always, questions about beef production are welcome. Please contact me (Beth Doran, ISU Extension and Outreach Beef Specialist) at (712) 737-4230 or with any questions or for more information.

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