Published by Central Florida Ag News
Agriculture is one of the top four industries that drive the economy of the state. Florida is well-known as one of the country’s agriculture giants with its tropical climate and year-round growing season, but the focus is usually on oranges and other citrus, strawberries, and other cultivated crops. However, Florida has a thriving livestock industry as well. With the arrival of spring, many of Florida’s livestock producers will have their hands full.
Florida’s Livestock Industry
There are numerous sectors of Florida’s livestock industry, with the cattle industry being the largest. Florida’s livestock industry is as varied as the crop side of its ag industry, featuring an array of different sectors raising a number of different kinds of livestock.
Florida is 18th in the country when it comes to beef cattle, boasting 1,680,000 head of cattle. Beef cattle numbered 914,000 head. Florida is mainly a cow-calf state, meaning they focus on raising calves to be shipped to stockers or feedlots.
Beef cattle first came to The Sunshine State in 1521 with the arrival of explorer Ponce De Leon. These Spanish cattle were left behind and became wild; they turned into the Cracker Cattle breed, known for their heat tolerance and other hardy traits. Many Florida ranchers pride themselves on being generational ranches and working the land their family has been on for hundreds of years.
Today, Florida’s beef cattle herds are mainly Angus. Brahman, or Brangus cattle on over 18,000 beef cattle operations. Florida also has over 400 dairy cattle operations with 116,000 head of dairy cows. Florida’s dairy producers generate approximately 300 million gallons of milk $537 million annually.
The industry contributed $7.65 billion in direct output and $4.64 billion to the state’s economy in the form of wages, salaries and benefits in 2017, employing over 118,000 directly or in allied industries. All in all, Florida’s cattle industry has an overall output of $16.798 billion in 2017!
It’s not well-known that Florida is “horse country,” but The Sunshine State is the third-largest equine state in the country. There are over 385,000 horses in Florida, with both thoroughbreds and working horses alike raised in the state. Florida’s horse industry and industry suppliers generate $6.8 billion and employ over 244,000.
Poultry is another piece of Florida’s livestock industry puzzle, with 78.5 million broilers—chickens raised for meat—and 11.3 million layers—chickens raised for egg production. In 2018, Florida chicken producers raised over 65 million broilers worth $215 million and 2 billion eggs worth $154 million.
Florida is 34th in the country for pig/swine production. In 2017, Florida raised 3.4 million pounds of pork worth $1.7 million.
Goats and Sheep.
Goats are raised in The Sunshine State for their milk, hair, and meat. Florida is ranked in the top 5 states in the Southeast in the production of goats raised for meat. In 2020, Florida had 9,000 head of goats for milking and 46,000 head of goats for meat and other uses. Sheep are raised for their wool and for their meat. Florida’s sheep industry is still relatively small.
There are numerous other livestock operations currently raising animals in The Sunshine State. From rabbits and bison to llamas, ostrich, and emus, there’s no shortage of interesting animals being raised on a farm or ranch near you.