Cattle Stock Photo

Where’s the beef? Florida can help the cattle shortage

Is Florida prepared to help curb a national shortage of cows? Jim Handley, executive vice president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, thinks so.

Florida’s brood-cow (mature female) population, he says, has stabilized in recent years by virtue of citrus land turned into pasture. Also, there’s news such as an affiliate of the Mormon church recently purchasing almost 400,000 acres from the St. Joe Paper Co. in the Florida Panhandle for conversion to cattle pasture. The church already owns the nation’s largest cow-calf operation, with some 44,000 head at Deseret Ranches in Central Florida. And there are reported expansion plans for Adena Springs Ranch in Marion County, along with cattle farms in Suwannee and Sumter counties.

That’s promising for drought-ravaged cattle growers from the Midwest and West, who have experienced a 61-year low in cattle population. While the tight supplies have boosted profits in Florida, Handley believes it’s time to restock supplies.

The ramifications are particularly strong across the Super Region. Beef cattle is a $670 million industry in Florida, including atotal of 1.6 million cattle. Alachua County, for example, has 45,000 cattle and is home to the University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences. Handley credits IFAS’ work in animals, plants, soil and biology for having a positive impact on cattle and other agricultural operations in the state.

So, let’s just say the cattle industry across the state and Super Region is moooving.