BY JOE PASCHAL
Recently I was asked to participate in an educational program initiated by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension called “Path to the Plate.”
The purpose is to educate our consumers about agricultural products – fibers, grains, vegetables and animal proteins, about where their food comes from and how it is produced.
It might seem that most folks should already know where their food comes from but unfortunately most do not. Not only do they not know where it comes from, they have no idea of the value of agricultural products to the local and state economy.
Recently, I spoke to the Path to the Plate group on beef cattle production systems (purebred and commercial, cow calf to feedlot, traditional and niche marketing beef) and sat in on several of the talks. One of them, presented by Ron Gill, my associate department head for Animal Science Extension, was the role that livestock production has in Texas agriculture.
You might not think that many folks are involved in agriculture, but 14 percent of all Texans are in agriculture-related work. Family farms represent 98.6 percent of all farms in Texas, which is just a little higher than the U.S. average.
The average age of farmers and ranchers is 58 years, which is a concern until one realizes that most owners are parents or grandparents and that the younger members of the family help in the operation.
And Texas has more women and minority farm operations than any other state in the U.S.
Texas leads the nation in cattle, cotton, horses, hay, sheep and goats, and mohair production and is second in grain sorghum.
In cattle, Texas has 13 percent of the U.S. inventory, in fact, Texas has more cattle than 43 states have people. Texas has the 14th largest cattle inventory in the world. Most Texas cattle operations have less than 50 cows but those account for only about 28 percent of all cows.
Ranches with 100-499 head maintain 38 percent of Texas cows. In fact, 73 percent of all cows in Texas are in herds of less than 500 head.
In 2015, the most recent statistics, Texas ranked third behind California and Iowa for agricultural receipts with $23.5 billion, of which about two-thirds comes from livestock products and one-third from crops. Cattle and calves account for about $8 billion, first; with broilers accounting for $1.4 billion, third, and dairy products total $975 million, fifth. Hogs and sheep and lambs account for $88 million and $58 million, 14th and 19th.
In comparison, nursery products came in second at $1.2 billion. That’s a lot of turf grass and shrubs. What was surprising was the economic impact, not value, of the Texas horse industry – $5.2 billion. Livestock exports are important to the Texas economy too. Exports of beef totaled $855 million and hides totaled $431 million.
The economic impact of the Texas food and fiber sector totals more than $100 billion annually, second only to the oil and gas industry.
But Texas has other livestock including dairy, swine and sheep and goats. Texas is not in the top 10 in dairy cow numbers but ranks sixth in milk production. Most dairy cows are in the Stephenville, Sulphur Springs, and the Panhandle.
Texas has never been known as a swine producing state but it still ranks 14th in the U.S. with about 2.5 million head marketed.
At one time, most swine were produced by small producers, but now 86 percent of the hogs produced in Texas are from herds with more than 2,000 sows. Many of those are in the Panhandle, too.
Texas has the highest numbers, and greatest value, of sheep and goats. Some 38 percent of goats, both Angora and meat goats, in the U.S. are in Texas and most of these are in the Hill Country. Texas is ranked third for dairy goats in the U.S. It was interesting to note that most of the market goats, kids as well as culls, are moved directly to processing plants in the upper Midwest and Northeast.
In the past, Mexico was the primary destination for culls but the ethnic market in urban areas is now the destination for those goats.
Texas animal agriculture is diverse and it has a significant impact on the state’s economy. But, more importantly, it helps provide abundant and safe food and fiber for all Texans.
Joe Paschal is a livestock specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in Corpus Christi. He can be contacted at 361-265-9203 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Maggie Tucker at email@example.com or (979) 845-1542.