There is no question that agriculture has seen its share of consolidation across several sectors. The one major exception is beef production, more specifically as it relates to cow-calf and stocker production.
A recent report from the Economic Research Service (ERS) at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows all areas of livestock production, with the exception of beef, have fewer and larger operations.
James MacDonald, senior economist with the Economic Research Service, says developments in confinement feeding, along with changes in housing and feeding, brought down the need for a lot of additional labor on farms. Each farm family can more effectively manage larger herds and flocks.
Back in 1987, the average beef cow herd was 89 cows. Also back then, the midpoint dairy herd was 80 cows. Ten years later, the average beef cow herd had grown to 100 animals while dairy had grown to 140 head. The latest data shows no change for the average beef cow herd, while average dairy cow herds were up to 900 back in 2012. The midpoint broiler farm doubled between 1987 and 2012, coming in at 680,000 birds. Mid-sized hog operations are 33 times larger than they were three decades ago.