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The Big Market of Cows in America

The cattle market is a massive industry in the USA, especially in states such as Texas and Nebraska. The cattle market is also known as livestock. These animals are usually killed for meat and meat products. The US produced 27.243 billion pounds of beef in 2020, most of it from farms grown since 1995. [1]

The United States cattle industry is a massive one. It was worth an estimated $76.4 billion, making it one of the largest meat industries on earth. However, like all things in life, times are changing, and a lot has changed since cowboy times. [2]

The US Cattle Market

·         History of the US Cattle Market

Cattle originated as wild animals in North America more than a million years ago. They were first domesticated in Asia and Europe. The Spanish brought cattle to the New World on their ships starting in 1493. Many of these animals escaped from captivity, became feral (wild), and thrived in the wilderness of the Americas. [3]

In the 1500s, ranchers began herding the wild cattle for food and skins. As the demand for beef grew, these ranchers raised cattle commercially or for profit. Spanish settlers established the first commercial ranching operation near San Antonio, Texas, in 1757. By 1800, there was about 2 million head of cattle roaming Texas alone.

The next step in the history of US cattle marketing was the expansion of ranching into other areas of the country. During the 1860s and 1880s, ranchers spread across the Great Plains region—from Texas north to Nebraska—and into northern California and Oregon. This era is known as the Cattle Kingdom period when cowboys herded longhorn cattle north with drive methods that Hollywood movies would later immortalize. [4]

·         How Many Cows are in the US?

The number of cattle and calves in the United States fluctuates as animal numbers change throughout the year. The United States is home to around 93.8 million cattle and calves as of 2020. [5]

·         How Many Cows Does America Slaughter Each Year?

In 2020, US slaughter plants processed about 33.07 million head of cattle. [6]

·         Average Price of a Cow in the US

The average price of a cow in America depends on the type of cow being sold. For example, beef cows are typically sold by the pound, while the head usually sells dairy cows. Beef cows (typically raised for meat) cost around $158.96 and $156.87 per Hundredweight, while dairy cows (raised for producing milk) can cost anywhere from $1,310 to $3,000 per head, depending on whether or not they have had their first calf yet. [7, 8]

Most Popular Beef Cattle Breeds

1.      Black Angus

The American Black Angus, also known as Aberdeen Angus, is a breed of cattle that originated in Aberdeenshire and Angus in Scotland. These cattle are naturally polled and solid black in color. They have red points only in their extremities like the muzzle, switch, teats, and hooves. They are medium-sized animals with short hair coats and loose hides. Their coat can vary from almost black to brown or red, depending on the animal’s genetic makeup.

The average weight of an adult bull ranges from 1,800 to 2,000 pounds (816 to 907 kg), while that of a cow ranges from 1,100 to 1,300 pounds (500 to 590 kg).

2.      Charolais

The Charolais is known to be one of the most popular beef cattle breeds globally. It’s one of the four significant breeds in Canada, and it’s a primary breed in France, Germany, Belgium, Australia, and New Zealand. These cattle are white or creamy white in color and are used extensively in France and other European countries.

Today, the Charolais is most widely used as a dual-purpose (or “cross-breed”) cow for beef production. However, due to its ability to produce high-quality meat on relatively poor pasture, it has also become a popular choice for organic beef production.

3.      Hereford

The Hereford is the most popular beef cattle breed in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This breed originated in England as a cross between native cattle and imported Longhorns.

The Hereford is medium-sized (1000–1100 lbs.) with a red body, white face, and underline. The head is large with wide-set eyes and short horns (on males). The udder of the female is small and neat.

The breed is well adapted to all classes of people, from dry range to high rainfall pasture land. The Hereford is tender-fleshed, early maturing, has a high dressing percentage, good milk production, and adapts well to crossbreeding.

4.      Simmental

The Simmental is a dual-purpose breed that originated in Switzerland; however, they are now also common in Australia, Canada, and the United States. The Simmental is considered the first modern dairy beef breed due to its increased milk production relative to other beef cattle breeds. The Simmental produces high-quality beef that has excellent marbling.

5.      Red Angus

Red Angus is one of the hardiest breeds known for its feed efficiency, calving ease, and maternal qualities. Red Angus produces high-quality beef, which is well-marbled. They have a deep red color and are best suited for grazing.

6.      Texas Longhorn

The Texas Longhorn is a breed of cattle known for its characteristic horns, extending from over 7 feet (2.1 m) tip to tip for steers and exceptional cows and up to 100 inches (2.54 m) tip to tip for bulls. They are descendants of the first cattle in the New World, brought by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish colonists. They have mixed with many breeds introduced since the 1600s.

The Texas Longhorn is known for its diverse coloring, hardiness, and docile nature. The Texas Longhorn averages approximately 1,000 pounds (450 kg) per cow and 1,500 pounds (680 kg) per bull. The horns of mature Texas Longhorns can extend up to 12 feet (3.7 m) across; tip to tip for bulls, and up to 9 feet (2.7 m) for cows; they are generally curved upward in young animals and forward or sideways as the animal matures.

7.      Gelbvieh

Originally from Germany and Austria, Gelbvieh cattle have been bred in the United States since the 1970s. The name Gelbvieh means “yellow cattle” in German, but they come in other colors, too, including brown and black. They are known for their lean meat, with a high ratio of lean meat to fat.

8.      Holstein

The Holstein has been the most popular dairy breed globally for centuries. The breed originated in the Netherlands, but approximately 70 percent of the world’s population is now in North America.

Holsteins are large animals, weighing 1,300 to 1,500 pounds at maturity and standing 59 to 63 inches tall. Black-and-white is the color combination most often seen in this breed, but they also come in red and white. A typical Holstein produces 9,000 pounds of milk per year with 4 percent butterfat and 3.6 percent protein.

9.      Limousin

The Limousin breed originated in France and is known for its easy-fattening, high-quality beef. The species was first introduced to the United States in 1969. They are distinguished by long, well-muscled bodies with a light red coat and white faces.

10.  The Highland

Because of their rugged nature, Highlands can be reared in parts of the country where other cattle cannot survive. In addition, the breed is exceptionally hardy and can thrive on poor pasture and limited supplementary feeding.

Highlands are an ancient breed that developed in the Scottish highlands. They were developed over the centuries by natural selection in the region’s harsh conditions. The breed is known for living on low-quality grazing and for being hardy in cold weather.

Top 10 States with the Most Cattle

Below are the top 10 states with the most cattle. [9]

State Number of Cattle (2018) % of US Cattle Market
Texas 12,500,000 13.24
Nebraska 6,800,000 7.20
Kansas 6,300,000 6.67
California 5,200,000 5.51
Oklahoma 5,100,000 5.40
Missouri 4,450,000 4.71
Iowa 4,000,000 4.24
South Dakota 4,000,000 4.24
Wisconsin 3,500,000 3.71
Colorado 2,850,000 3.02



The United States is the fourth largest market for cows in the world. It is the largest producer of beef globally and has the largest dairy herd in the world (where most of our milk comes from). The US is also one of the top three countries for exports like beef and veal, which means we do well internationally too! [10, 11]

The global cattle industry continues to grow every year, and it’s vital that we keep up with demand as our population increases, or else we might run into some serious problems down the line. So, in conclusion: cows rule America!


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