By Jim Collins
For the Observer

Beef cattle production ranks second behind broilers in cash receipts among Alabama farm commodities. Alabama cattle producers sold $558.4 million worth of cattle and calves last year. Cattle are produced in every county and cattle production represents a $2.5 billion industry in Alabama. The state’s climate and land are ideally suited for growing forages and raising cattle.
Value of Cattle
Inventory & Hay Crops
The total value of cattle on Alabama farms in 2017 was $1,222 million. The value per head on Jan. 1 was $940.
Alabama cattle depend on hay as a major winter feed source and cattlemen produce a lot of hay each year. In 2016 1.7 million tons of hay was harvested from 810,000 acres. The total value of the hay crop was $226 million.
On January 1 there were 1,300,000 head of cattle and calves on Alabama farms according to figures released by the Alabama Agricultural Statistics Service. This is a 4-percent increase amounting to 50,000 more cattle than last year. There were 693,000 beef cows that had calved in the state on January 1 which is 103{44c616e11cf70d617c8dd92fb0bc15f41001df771f775c6b004238009c89a3f0} more than year earlier figures.
Nationally, cattle numbers increased to 93.6 million head, up 2{44c616e11cf70d617c8dd92fb0bc15f41001df771f775c6b004238009c89a3f0} from year earlier figures. This is the second year in row with an increase in the U.S. herd inventory. There are 31.2 million beef cows in the U.S. which is a 3{44c616e11cf70d617c8dd92fb0bc15f41001df771f775c6b004238009c89a3f0} increase over 2016.
Eighth In Number
of Beef Cattle Farms
Alabama ranks 16th among all states in the number of beef cows and 8th in the number of farms with beef cattle. USDA figures show there were 17,698 farms in Alabama with beef cows that have calved. Only Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Virginia have more farms with beef cows.
Beef Demand
Still Strong
Domestic beef demand has remained strong and the global market caused big increases in the export market. This has added dollars to the pockets of our cattle farmers.
2016 was a strong year for beef exports with 2.62 billion pounds of beef shipped overseas which exceeded imports by more than 27 million pounds. The value of beef exports last year was a record high $6.34 billion which contributed to $262 head in the value of cattle coming out of the feedlot. Exports accounted for 13.7{44c616e11cf70d617c8dd92fb0bc15f41001df771f775c6b004238009c89a3f0} of total U.S. beef production.
Local Beef Industry by the Numbers
The beef industry is the major form of production agriculture in East Alabama:
2017 Total Cattle and Calves
Chambers County = 17,900
Lee County = 4,900
Macon County = 7,100
Randolph County= 25,000
Russell County= 6,300
Tallapoosa County=5,600