The Agriculture Research Service reports that beef cow-calf production in the United States is occurring in every State. Nearly 765,000, or about 35% of the 2.2 million farms in the United States, had a beef cow inventory in 2007. Most were small, part-time operations. About a third of farms that raise beef animals had a beef cow inventory of less than 10 cows, more than half had fewer than 20 cows, and nearly 80% had fewer than 50 cows.
For this study, the Economic Research Service used data from USDA's 2008 Agricultural Resource Management Survey for U.S. beef cow-calf operations to examine the structure, costs, and characteristics of beef cow-calf producers. The work found that many small operations are "rural residence farms" that specialize in beef cow-calf production, but their income from off-farm sources exceeds that from the farm.
Also, according to the report, most beef cow-calf production occurs on large farms, but cow-calf production is not the primary enterprise on many of these farms. Findings suggest that operators of beef cow-calf farms have a diverse set of goals for the cattle enterprise.