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Profile of Farms with Livestock in the United States: A Statistical Summary

Robert L. Kellogg
Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA

February 4, 2002

Summary

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Census of Agriculture reported that there were 1,911,859 farms in the United States in 1997. Over two-thirds of these farms-1,315,051 farms (69 percent-reported livestock inventory or livestock sales. Farms with livestock vary widely in the number and kind of livestock on the farm. Some raise few livestock, primarily for home consumption. Some are predominately pasture-based operations with livestock types such as beef cows, horses, sheep, and goats. Others are predominantly confined operations with livestock types such as fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens, or turkeys. Many of the farms with livestock also raise crops, but others specialize in livestock production and have few acres associated with the farm. A few farms raise specialty livestock types such as ducks, geese, fur-bearing animals, fish, honeybees, and exotic livestock. The majority of farms with livestock are small relative to livestock production, but some farms are quite large, generating sales of livestock products in excess of a million dollars annually. Some farms specialize in a single livestock type, especially the larger farms, but many farms have several livestock types.

Farms with livestock were categorized into four mutually exclusive groups on the basis of the number and kind of livestock reported in the 1997 Census of Agriculture:

  1. Farms with few livestock were defined to be farms with less than: 1) 4 animal units of any combination of fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens and turkeys, 2) 8 animal units of cattle other than fattened cattle or milk cows, 3) 10 horses, ponies, mules, burros, or donkeys, 4) 25 sheep, lambs, or goats, and 5) $5,000 in sales of specialty livestock products. These farms would generally be expected to be raising livestock for home consumption or for sale to neighbors or at small local markets.
  2. Farms with specialty livestock types were defined to be farms with $5,000 or more in sales of livestock products from fish, bees, rabbits, mink, poultry other than chickens and turkeys, and exotic livestock, and generally had few other livestock types on the farm.
  3. Farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock were defined to be farms with: 1) less than 4 animal units of any combination of fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens and turkeys, 2) 8 or more animal units of cattle other than milk cows and fattened cattle, 3) 10 or more horses, ponies, mules, burros, or donkeys, or 4) 25 or more sheep, lambs, or goats.
  4. Farms with confined livestock types were defined to be farms with 4 or more animal units of any combination of fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens or turkeys.

These farms with livestock also were categorized into three farm types by adapting the Economic Research Service's farm typology to information available in the Census database:

  1. Commercial farms were defined to be all farms with total agricultural sales (crops and livestock) above $250,000 and farms with less than $250,000 in total agricultural sales if farming or ranching was reported as the principal occupation of the operator and the type of farm organization was other than an individual, family, or partnership. This farm type thus includes all incorporations, estates and trusts, prison farms, grazing associations, Indian reservations, and other nonfamily enterprises.
  2. Intermediate farms were defined to be farms operated by individuals, families, or partnerships with total agricultural sales below $250,000 and the principal occupation of the operator was farming or ranching.
  3. Rural-residence farms were defined to be farms with total agricultural sales below $250,000 and the principal occupation of the operator was not farming or ranching.

Most of the farms with livestock were farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock, represented by 707,365 farms (54 percent). Farms with few livestock numbered 361,031 (27 percent), farms with confined livestock types numbered 237,821 (18 percent), and farms with specialty livestock types numbered 8,834 (0.7 percent).

About 49 percent of the 1,315,051 farms with livestock were rural-residence farms (645,702 farms), 42 percent were intermediate farms (549,486 farms), and 9 percent were commercial farms (119,702 farms). About 82 percent of intermediate farms and 98 percent of rural-residence farms had total agricultural sales less than $100,000. About 38 percent of intermediate farms and 75 percent of rural-residence farms had total agricultural sales less than $10,000. Only about 8 percent of farms with livestock had total agricultural sales above $250,000.

There were 143,242 farms (11 percent) with gross livestock sales greater than $100,000. Only 32,390 of these farms had gross livestock sales greater than $500,000. About 62 percent of farms with livestock had gross livestock sales less than $10,000.

Operators of 42,926 farms were non-white or Hispanic, representing about 3 percent of farms with livestock or livestock sales. About 57 percent of these farms were rural-residence farms, 38 percent were intermediate farms, and 5 percent were commercial farms.

An important subset of farms with confined livestock is farms that meet criteria for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) under the Clean Water Act. Although the information in the Census of Agriculture is not adequate to identify a farm as a CAFO, potential CAFOs can be estimated based on the livestock type and the estimated number of animals on the farm. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines 4 alternative thresholds for CAFOs based on the number of animals held in confinement for each livestock type. EPA defines these thresholds in terms of "animal units" that are based on head counts, which vary by livestock type. (EPA "animal units" differ significantly from USDA animal units, which are based on 1,000 pounds of live weight. The correspondence between USDA animal units and EPA "animal units" is discussed in the paper.)

Results of the modeling indicate there were 11,398 potential CAFOs at the 1,000 EPA animal unit threshold, representing about 5 percent of all farms with confined livestock types. There were 16,765 potential CAFOs (7 percent) at the 750 EPA animal unit threshold, 26,607 potential CAFOs at the 500 EPA animal unit threshold (11 percent), and 44,366 at the 300 EPA animal unit threshold (19 percent). Nearly all potential CAFOs in all four groups were commercial farms. At the most inclusive threshold-300 EPA animal units-about 94 percent of potential CAFOs were commercial farms, 4 percent were intermediate farms, and 1 percent were rural-residence farms. As the threshold decreases, the percentage of potential CAFOs with total agricultural sales below $500,000 increases. At the 300 EPA animal unit threshold, 33 percent of potential CAFOs had total agricultural sales below $500,000, compared to only 2 percent at the 1,000 EPA animal unit threshold.

Introduction

Information on the number and kind of farms with livestock is essential to establish a context for national and local policies directed toward livestock operations, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed revisions to the rule governing Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) efforts to implement comprehensive programs to assist livestock producers with manure and wastewater management and use. Policymakers need to know how many livestock producers there are and how many need assistance or may be regulated to make informed decisions on the programs and regulations pertaining to the livestock industry. Program managers and decision-makers need this same information to determine program funding levels and to establish rules that define which farms receive assistance or which farms are regulated.

The Census of Agriculture shows that there were 1,315,051 farms in the United States in 1997 that had some kind of livestock on the farm or had sales from livestock products, representing about 2 of every 3 farms in the country.1 These farms vary from primarily crop producing farms with a few livestock to farms with large numbers of confined livestock to producers of "specialty" livestock such as ducks, geese, fur-bearing animals, fish, honey bees, and exotic livestock to farms with large numbers of pastured livestock to very small farms with few acres and few livestock.

The purpose of this paper is to identify the predominant types of livestock farms in the United States, and to summarize the number and kind of livestock and the amount of livestock sales associated with each farm type.

Classification of Farms with Livestock

Farms with livestock were categorized in two ways: 1) farm group according to the number and kind of livestock on the farm, and 2) farm type according to characteristics of the operation and total agricultural sales.

Classification of farms according to the number and kind of livestock on the farm

The Census of Agriculture reports end-of-year inventories and sometimes the number of animals sold during the year for the following livestock types:

  1. Beef cows
  2. Milk cows
  3. Heifers and heifer calves
  4. Steers and bulls of all ages
  5. Hogs and pigs used for breeding
  6. Other hogs and pigs
  7. Sheep and lambs
  8. Chicken layers 20 weeks old and older
  9. Chicken pullets for laying flock replacement
  10. Chicken broilers
  11. Turkeys for slaughter
  12. Turkeys for breeding
  13. Other poultry, including ducks, geese, pigeons, pheasants, quail, and other
  14. Poultry hatched and placed or sold
  15. Horses and ponies
  16. Colonies of bees
  17. Milk, Angora, and other goats
  18. Mules, burros, and donkeys
  19. Mink and rabbits
  20. Fish and aquaculture products
  21. Other livestock

The average number of cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys on the farm during the year was estimated from sales and end-of-year inventory according to procedures described in Kellogg, Lander, Moffit and Gollehon. 2 The estimates were in the form of USDA animal units (AU), where an animal unit is equivalent to 1,000 pounds of live weight. For the other livestock types, end-of-year inventories were used to represent livestock populations on the farm.

Using this information on livestock types and number on each farm, farms with livestock were uniquely categorized into the following four groups:

  • Farms with few livestock of all types.
  • Farms with specialty livestock types.
  • Farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock.
  • Farms with confined livestock types.

Farms with few livestock were defined to be farms with less than:

  • 4 animal units of any combination of fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens or turkeys.
  • 8 animal units of cattle other than fattened cattle or milk cows.
  • 10 horses, ponies, mules, burros, or donkeys.
  • 25 sheep, lambs, or goats.
  • $5,000 in sales of specialty livestock products.

Farms with specialty livestock types were defined to be farms with:

  • Few livestock but with sales of livestock products from fish, bees, rabbits, mink, poultry other than chickens and turkeys, and exotic livestock more than $5,000.
  • Sales from specialty livestock that were more than 75 percent of the total livestock sales for the farm.

Farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock were defined to be farms with:

  • Less than 4 animal units of any combination of fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens or turkeys.
  • 8 or more animal units of cattle other than milk cows and fattened cattle.
  • 10 or more horses, ponies, mules, burros, or donkeys.
  • 25 or more sheep, lambs, or goats.

Farms that met criteria for veal farms or confined heifer farms were excluded from this group and counted as farms with confined livestock types (below).

Farms with confined livestock types were defined to be farms with:

  • 4 or more animal units of any combination of fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens or turkeys.
  • veal or heifers that appeared to be raised in confinement.3

The dominant livestock type on each farm was defined as the livestock type with the most animal units. Farms with confined livestock types also may have significant populations of pastured livestock types, which were sometimes the dominant animal type on the farm. If more than 35 animal units of any fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens, or turkeys were present on the farm, they were used to define the dominant livestock type, even if cattle (excluding milk cows and fattened cattle) were the most abundant livestock type on the farm.

Included in this group were a small number of farms (2,291 farms) that should be classified as farms with confined livestock types, but did not meet the criteria above. These three special cases were:

  • Farms with no chicken layers, pullets, broilers, or turkeys, but more than 5,000 poultry hatched and placed or sold, or more than 10,000 incubator-egg capacity. Most of these farms produce chicks for the broiler industry. Poultry sales for these farms totaled $1.6 billion dollars.
  • Farms that had more than $5,000 in dairy products sold but no end-of-year milk cow inventory. These are likely to be dairies that went out of business in 1997.4
  • Farms with sales of feeder pigs but no other hogs or pigs on the farm.5 (There were only 15 of these farms with significant numbers of feeder pigs, likely to be swine nursery operations that raise weaned pigs to feeder pig size.)

Farms that met criteria for special cases but had more than 4 animal units of fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens, or turkeys were classified according to the dominant confined livestock type, and were thus not categorized as a "special case farm."

Four size classes were also defined for farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock and for farms with confined livestock types. For farms with confined livestock types, large farms were defined to be farms with more than 210 animal units of any of the 5 confined livestock types (fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens, or turkeys). For farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock, roughly equivalent criteria were used to define large farms: 1) more than 210 horses, ponies, mules, burros, and donkeys, or 2) more than 210 beef cattle animal units, or 3) more than 1200 sheep and goats. The 210 animal unit threshold for large farms was selected so that all farms with 1,000 or more "EPA animal units" would be included in the category of "large farms."6 Medium-size farms were defined to be farms with one-third or more of the minimum number of livestock as on large farms (e.g., 70-210 animal units of any of the 5 confined livestock types). Small farms were defined to be farms with one-half or more of the minimum number of livestock as on medium-size farms (e.g., 35-70 animal units for any of the confined livestock types). The remaining farms were categorized as very small farms. The upper limit of the very-small farm size class--35 animal units--corresponds to annual sales of about 100 fattened cattle, or dairies with 25 milk cows, or a typical broiler house (25,000 bird capacity) operated at two-thirds capacity. Most of the farms in the very small farm size class are much smaller than the upper limit, ranging to farms as small as 4 animal units of the 5 confined livestock types combined.

Classification of farms according to characteristics of the operation and gross sales

The Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA, has defined a farm typology categorizing farms into eight specific types.7 They also identify three basic groups of farms, which they define as follows:8

  1. Commercial farms consist of large family farms with sales above $250,000 and some nonfamily enterprises that are organized as cooperatives or nonfamily corporations or have a hired manager.
  2. Intermediate farms have sales below $250,000 and the operator reports farming as his or her major occupation.
  3. Rural-residence farms have gross sales below $250,000 where farming is considered a secondary activity both in terms of resources invested in the farm and the amount of income it contributes to the farm household.

The $250,000 cutoff for small farms was suggested by the National Commission on Small Farms in its January 1998 report, A Time to Act, as a level of sales that would generally provide a net farm income comparable to the income of the average nonfarmer.9

The Census of Agriculture has most, but not all, of the information needed to apply the farm typology criteria. The Census of Agriculture asks respondents to report gross sales of all agricultural products and to indicate whether the operation is: 1) family or individually operated, 2) operated as a partnership (including family partnerships), 3) operated as a corporation and whether or not it is a family-held corporation, and 4) other, such as estate or trust, prison farm, grazing association, Indian reservation, etc. The survey also asks if the principal occupation is farming/ranching or other.

A slightly modified version of the ERS farm typology was applied to farms with livestock in the 1997 Census of Agriculture using the following criteria:

  1. Commercial farms were defined to be all farms with total agricultural sales (crops and livestock) above $250,000 and farms with less than $250,000 in total agricultural sales if farming or ranching was reported as the principal occupation of the operator and the type of farm organization was other than an individual, family, or partnership. This farm type thus includes all incorporated farms, estates and trusts, prison farms, grazing associations, Indian reservations, and other nonfamily enterprises. Commercial farms were further subdivided into 3 groups: 1) farms with more than $500,000 in total agricultural sales, 2) farms with $250,000 to $500,000 in total agricultural sales, and 3) farms with less than $250,000 in total agricultural sales.
  2. Intermediate farms were defined to be farms operated by individuals, families, or partnerships with total agricultural sales below $250,000 and the principal occupation of the operator was farming or ranching. Intermediate farms were further subdivided into 3 groups: 1) farms with more than $100,000 in total agricultural sales, 2) farms with $10,000 to $100,000 in total agricultural sales, and 3) farms with less than $10,000 in total agricultural sales.
  3. Rural-residence farms were defined to be farms with total agricultural sales below $250,000 and the principal occupation of the operator was not farming or ranching. Rural-residence farms were further subdivided into 3 groups: 1) farms with more than $100,000 in total agricultural sales, 2) farms with $10,000 to $100,000 in total agricultural sales, and 3) farms with less than $10,000 in total agricultural sales.

Distribution of Farms with Livestock by Farm Type and Farm Group

Of the 1,315,051 farms with livestock, 645,702 (49 percent) were rural-residence farms, 549,486 (42 percent) were intermediate farms, and 119,863 (9 percent) were commercial farms (table 1, figure 1). Among commercial farms, 37 percent had total agricultural sales above $500,000, 46 percent had sales between $250,000 and $500,000, and 17 percent had sales below $250,000. Commercial farms with sales lower than $250,000 (20,878 farms) represent small nonfamily farms. Only 18 percent of intermediate farms and only 2 percent of rural-residence farms had total agricultural sales above $100,000. About 38 percent of intermediate farms and 75 percent of rural-residence farms had total agricultural sales below $10,000.

The majority of farms with livestock were farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock (54 percent), 27 percent were farms with few livestock, 18 percent were farms with confined livestock types, and 0.7 percent were farms with specialty livestock types (table 1, figure 2). Most commercial farms were farms with confined livestock types (62 percent), whereas most intermediate farms were farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock (58 percent) and most rural residence farms were either farms with few livestock (40 percent) or farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock (54 percent) (table 1, figure 3, figure 4, figure 5).

The distribution by state of the four farm groups is shown in table 2, and the distribution by state of the three farm types is shown in table 3.

Profile of Farms with Few Livestock

Most (71 percent) of the 361,031 farms with few livestock were rural-residence farms (257,333 farms) (table 4). A significant number-97,468 farms-were intermediate farms (27 percent), and a small number (6,230 farms) were commercial farms. The majority (84 percent) had total agricultural sales below $10,000.

Farms with the largest total agricultural sales were almost exclusively farms that primarily produced crops, whereas farms that primarily produced livestock had low sales (table 4). Virtually all the commercial farms with total agricultural sales above $250,000 and the intermediate farms and rural-residence farms with sales above $100,000 primarily raised crops (i.e., livestock sales represented less than 25 percent of total sales).

Gross livestock sales for farms with few livestock totaled $776 million, representing less than 1 percent of livestock sales for all farms with livestock (table 5). Of this, $48 million was reported for about 300 farms with high-value livestock sales such as horses or breeding stock, most of which were horse sales. The average livestock sales per farm was only $2,149 ($2,017 excluding the 300 farms with high value livestock sales). No livestock sales were reported for 34 percent of the farms, 50 percent had livestock sales less than $900, and 75 percent had livestock sales less than $2,450. Ninety-five percent of the farms had livestock sales less than $8,000.

About 75 percent of farms with few livestock had only pastured livestock types, 23 percent had at least some fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens, or turkeys, and about 2 percent primarily had specialty livestock with specialty livestock sales below $5,000 (table 5). Even on the farms that also had confined livestock types, most of the livestock were pastured livestock types.

The total number of livestock on all farms with few livestock is almost negligible when compared to the number of livestock on other farms (table 5). These 361,031 farms accounted for only 1 percent of cattle (all types), swine, turkey, and chicken animal units on all farms and 3.6 percent of sheep and goats. Horses are the exception. About one-fourth of all the horses, ponies, mules, burros, and donkeys were on farms with few livestock (even though the maximum number on any farm was less than 10). On average, farms with few livestock have about 2.3 animal units of beef cattle, 0.2 animal units of fattened cattle, swine, turkeys, and chickens combined, 1-2 horses, ponies, mules, burros, and donkeys, and 1 sheep or goat.

Profile of Farms with Specialty Livestock Types

Each of the three farm types was well represented among farms with specialty livestock types. Intermediate farms represented 41 percent, rural-residence farms represented 37 percent, and commercial farms represented 22 percent (table 6). Only a few farms-4 percent-primarily raised crops, while the vast majority-89 percent-primarily produced livestock. About 7 percent had significant proportions of both crops and livestock.

These 8,834 farms accounted for $1.6 billion in gross livestock sales, averaging $690,062 for commercial farms, $52,155 for intermediate farms, and 29,891 for rural-residence farms (table 6). Commercial farms accounted for 82 percent of gross livestock sales for farms with specialty livestock types.

Most of these farms (91 percent) had few other livestock, but 786 farms would also qualify as farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock and 50 farms would also qualify as farms with confined livestock types (table 7). Farms with specialty livestock types had negligible amounts of other livestock types (table 7). Although the other three farm groups all had some specialty livestock, farms with specialty livestock types accounted for 96 percent of all specialty livestock sales. The dominant specialty livestock types on these farms-based on sales-was fish and other aquaculture species on 2,449 farms (28 percent), colonies of bees on 2,331 farms (26 percent), poultry other than chickens and turkeys (such as ducks and geese) on 1,490 farms (17 percent), mink and rabbits on 641 farms (7 percent), and other exotic livestock on 1,923 farms (22 percent).

Profile of Farms with Pastured Livestock Types and Few Other Livestock

Farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock were about equally distributed between intermediate farms (45 percent) and rural-residence farms (49 percent) (table 8). Only about 5 percent were commercial farms. About 78 percent of the rural-residence farms and 64 percent of intermediate farms primarily produced livestock, while only 9 percent of rural-residence farms and 16 percent of intermediate farms primarily produced crops (table 8). Crop production was more predominant among commercial farms-40 percent primarily produced crops and 41 percent primarily produced livestock. About half (56 percent) of the intermediate and rural-residence farms had total agricultural sales less than $10,000, and so were quite small relative to both crop and livestock production.

Although the number of commercial farms was small relative to the other two farm types, commercial farms had 46 percent of the gross livestock sales, averaging $212,236 per farm. In contrast, the per-farm average of gross livestock sales for intermediate farms was only $19,153 and only $9,105 for rural-residence farms (table 8).

Overall, farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock accounted for only 17 percent of all livestock sales ($17.2 billion) even though this group represented over half of all farms with livestock (table 9). Twenty-five percent had livestock sales less than $2,800, 50 percent had livestock sales less than $6,250, and 75 percent had livestock sales less than $15,400.

The majority of farms in this group-59 percent-were farms with only beef cattle (other than fattened cattle) (table 9). About 2 percent of the farms had only sheep and goats, and about 4 percent had only horses, ponies, mules, burros, or donkeys. The remaining 35 percent of these farms had a mixture of pastured livestock types, of which about 40 percent also had up to 4 animal units of fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens, or turkeys.

Farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock accounted for about 86 percent of all beef cow animal units on all farms, about 68 percent of all beef cattle animal units other than fattened cattle or beef cows, about 88 percent of all sheep and goats, and about 68 percent of all horses, ponies, mules, burros, and donkeys. Fattened cattle, milk cows, other dairy cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys totaled only 82,186 animal units, which is a negligible proportion (0.2 percent) of these livestock types on all farms.

Presented in table 10 and figure 6 is a breakdown of farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock according to farm size. About 58 percent of these farms are in the smallest size class-very small farms. Very small farms have less than 35 horses, ponies, mules, burros, and donkeys, less than 35 beef cattle animal units, and less than 200 sheep and goats. Only about 5 percent (38,652 farms) were in the largest size class-large farms. Large farms have more than 210 horses, ponies, mules, burros, and donkeys or more than 210 beef cattle animal units or more than 1200 sheep and goats. Although relatively few in number, these large farms accounted for half (49 percent) of the gross livestock sales for this farm group.

In general, farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock are dominated by very small farms that primarily raise livestock (mostly beef cattle) and have low gross livestock sales. A significant minority, however, raises large numbers of livestock and has relatively high gross livestock sales.

Profile of Farms with Confined Livestock Types

Of the 1,315,051 farms with livestock, 18 percent (237,821 farms) were farms with confined livestock types (i.e., farms with 4 or more animal units of any combination of fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens and turkeys, or appeared to be raising veal or heifers in confinement). These 237,821 farms accounted for $79 billion in gross livestock sales, which was 80 percent of gross livestock sales for all farms.

Most were intermediate farms (54 percent) or commercial farms (31 percent) (table 11). Only about 15 percent were rural-residence farms. Although many farms with confined livestock types also produce crops, the majority-70 percent-primarily produced livestock. Only 7 percent primarily produced crops, and about 23 percent had significant proportions of both crops and livestock. A minority of these farms was small relative to both crop and livestock production-only 5 percent had total agricultural sales less than $10,000.

Gross livestock sales per farm were much higher for this group than for the other farm groups.10 The per-farm average of gross livestock sales was $904,152 for commercial farms, $80,021 for intermediate farms, and $42,726 for rural-residence farms (table 11). Twenty-five percent of farms with confined livestock types had gross livestock sales above $223,870, 50 percent had gross livestock sales above $93,620, and 75 percent had gross livestock sales above $33,204 (table 12). The top 5 percent had gross livestock sales above $1,000,000.

Farms with confined livestock types were further categorized into 4 size classes, excluding special case farms (table 12, figure 7). Farms with less than 35 animal units of either fattened cattle, milk cows, swine, chickens, turkeys, veal or confined heifers were classified as very small farms. There were 84,297 very small farms (35 percent of farms with confined livestock types). Although this was the most numerous size class, it accounted for only 4 percent of livestock sales and only 8 percent of the animal units in this farm group. The median per-farm livestock sales for very small farms was about $23,000.

Farms with between 35 and 70 animal units of any type were classified as small farms. Small farms comprised 23 percent of farms with confined livestock types, and accounted for 7 percent of gross livestock sales and 9 percent of the animal units. The median per-farm livestock sales for small farms was about $84,000.

Farms with between 70 and 210 animal units of any type were classified as medium-size farms. Medium-size farms comprised 29 percent of farms with confined livestock types, and accounted for 23 percent of gross livestock sales and 22 percent of the animal units. The median per-farm livestock sales for medium-size farms was $196,000.

There were 26,919 large farms, which had more than 210 animal units of any confined livestock type, representing 11 percent of farms with confined livestock types. These large farms accounted for the bulk of gross livestock sales--$51 billion (64 percent)--and the bulk of the animal units (60 percent). The median per-farm livestock sales for large farms was about $828,000. Livestock sales for the top 5 percent exceeded $4.8 million.

Farms with confined livestock types accounted for 99 percent or more of all animal units on all farms with livestock for each of fattened cattle, milk cows, other dairy cattle,11 swine, chickens, and turkeys (table 12). Dairies comprised 40 percent of the farms (94,787 farms), swine were the dominant livestock type on 22 percent of the farms (51,772 farms), poultry were dominant on 12 percent (27,530 farms), fattened cattle were dominant on 8 percent (17,796 farms), and veal and confined heifers were dominant on about 2 percent (4,011 farms) (table 12). The remaining farms were special cases (1 percent) or very small farms where beef cattle (other than fattened cattle) were the dominant livestock type (17 percent).

The number of farms with confined livestock types by state for each dominant livestock type is presented in table 13.

Profile of Potential Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

Potential Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are an important subset of farms with confined livestock. The U.S. Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) has published its proposed revisions to the rule governing CAFOs in the Federal Register.12 The proposed options would increase the number of livestock operations that would be defined as CAFOs under the Clean Water Act. EPA defines 4 alternative thresholds for CAFOs based on the number of animals held in confinement for 45 or more days within a year. EPA defines these thresholds in terms of "animal units" that are based on head counts for each livestock type. The four EPA thresholds are:

  Number of animals needed to qualify as a CAFO
1,000 EPA animal units 750 EPA animal units 500 EPA animal units 300 EPA animal units
Cattle and heifers 1,000 750 500 300
Veal 1,000 750 500 300
Mature dairy cattle 700 525 350 200
Swine over 55 pounds 2,500 1,875 1,250 750
Immature swine 10,000 7,500 5,000 3,000
Chickens 100,000 75,000 50,000 30,000
Turkeys 55,000 41,250 27,500 16,500

Under the current rule, the 1,000 EPA animal unit threshold is the primary basis for determining a CAFO. However, operations with 300 to 1,000 EPA animal units also may be defined as CAFOs if they meet additional criteria. The 750 EPA animal unit threshold and the 500 animal unit threshold are alternative thresholds in EPA's proposal.

EPA "animal units" are different from USDA animal units, which are based on 1,000 pounds of live weight. The table below presents equivalent thresholds in terms of USDA animal units for each of the four EPA thresholds. The comparison assumes that the number of animals represented by the EPA head-count thresholds is the average number of animals on the farm throughout the year. The EPA thresholds are actually more restrictive, since they apply to the maximum number of animals in confinement on the farm in any 45 days within a year.

    USDA animal units (1,000 pounds of live weight) equivalent to EPA's head-count thresholds for CAFOs
Animals per animal unit13 1,000 EPA animal units 750 EPA animal units 500 EPA animal units 300 EPA animal units
Fattened cattle 1.14 877 658 439 263
Milk cows 0.74 946 709 473 270
Confined heifers 0.94 1,064 798 532 319
Veal 4 250 188 125 75
Breeding hogs 2.67 936 702 468 281
Hogs for slaughter 9.09 275 206 138 83
Chicken layers 250 400 300 200 120
Chicken broilers 455 220 165 110 66
Pullets more than 3 months old 250 400 300 200 120
Turkeys for breeding 50 1,100 825 550 330
Turkeys for slaughter 67 821 616 410 246

The EPA head-count thresholds adjust, to some extent, for differences in the amount of manure nutrients produced by the various livestock types. The table below presents estimates of the total pounds of manure phosphorus that would be produced on a farm during a year for each livestock type at the 1,000 EPA animal unit threshold (column 7), assuming a farm had livestock at that level throughout the entire year.14

  Tons of manure as excreted per USDA AU Pounds of phosphorus per ton of manure Pounds of phosphorus per USDA AU Number of animals per USDA AU Pounds of phosphorus per head Head count corresponding to 1,000 EPA animal units Pounds of phosphorus corresponding to 1,000 EPA animal units
(1) (2) (3)=(1)*(2) (4) (5)=(3)/(4) (6) (7)=(5)*(6)
Fattened cattle 10.59 3.37 35.69 1.14 31.3055 1,000 31,306
Milk cows 15.24 1.92 29.26 0.74 39.5416 700 27,679
Breeding hogs 6.11 4.28 26.15 2.67 9.7943 2,500 24,486
Hogs for slaughter 14.69 3.29 48.33 9.09 5.3168 2,500 13,292
Chicken layers 11.45 9.98 114.27 250 0.4571 100,000 45,710
Chicken broilers 14.97 7.80 116.77 455 0.2566 100,000 25,660
Pullets less than 3 months old 8.32 10.53 87.61 455 0.1925 100,000 19,250
Pullets more than 3 months old 8.32 10.53 87.61 250 0.3504 100,000 35,040
Turkeys for breeding 9.12 13.21 120.48 50 2.4095 55,000 132,523
Turkeys for slaughter 8.18 11.83 96.77 67 1.4443 55,000 79,437

Although the information in the Census of Agriculture is not adequate to identify a farm as a CAFO, potential CAFOs can be estimated based on the livestock type and the estimated number of animals on the farm. A comparison between estimates of potential CAFOs derived from the Census of Agriculture for 1997 with estimates EPA published in the Federal Register is presented in table 14 for each of the four CAFO thresholds. Overall, the comparison is favorable, indicating that we can use the Census of Agriculture to reasonably represent the subset of farms that may qualify as CAFOs under each of the four alternative thresholds.

Results indicate that in 1997 there were 11,398 potential CAFOs at the 1,000 EPA animal unit level, representing about 5 percent of all farms with confined livestock types (table 15). There were 16,897 potential CAFOs (7 percent) at the 750 EPA animal unit level, 27,012 potential CAFOs at the 500 EPA animal unit level (11 percent), and 44,366 at the 300 EPA animal unit level (19 percent).

The majority of potential CAFOs in all four groups were commercial farms (table 15). At the most inclusive level-300 EPA animal units-about 94 percent of potential CAFOs were commercial farms, 4 percent were intermediate farms, and 1 percent were rural-residence farms. About 98 percent of potential CAFOs above the 1,000 EPA animal unit threshold were commercial farms with total agricultural sales above $500,000 (table 15). As the threshold decreases, the percentage of potential CAFOs with total agricultural sales below $500,000 increases. At the 300 EPA animal unit threshold, 33 percent of potential CAFOs had total agricultural sales below $500,000, compared to only 2 percent at the 1,000 EPA animal unit threshold.

Profiles of potential CAFOs associated with each of the four EPA thresholds are presented in table 16. Potential CAFOs at the 1,000 EPA animal unit level consist of about 42 percent of the farms in the large farm size class for farms with confined livestock types. Nearly all of the broiler farms and pullet farms in the large farm size class are potential CAFOs at this level, as are 69 percent of the fattened cattle farms, 52 percent of the swine farms, 16 percent of the dairies, 15 percent of the turkey farms, and 27 percent of the veal and confined heifer farms. As the CAFO threshold is reduced, smaller farms are added to this collection of potential CAFOs. At the 300 EPA animal unit threshold, potential CAFOs include: 1) all farms in the large farm size class except for a portion of the smallest dairy and turkey farms, 2) a portion of the largest farms in the medium-size farm size class for swine, fattened cattle, layers, pullets, and confined heifers, and 3) all of the broiler farms in the medium-size farm size class and a few broiler farms in the small farm size class. Profiles of potential CAFOs (table 16) differ considerably from the profiles for medium-size and large farms (table 12) because of these differences in the composition of farms in the respective groups.

For potential CAFOs at the 1,000 EPA animal unit level, median gross livestock sales per farm was $1.5 million (table 16). Seventy-five percent had gross livestock sales above $1 million, and 25 percent had gross livestock sales above $2.6 million. Livestock sales for this collection of farms is about $40 billion, which is 41 percent of the total livestock sales for all farms with livestock. Of these 11,398 farms, 34 percent are swine farms, 26 percent are broiler farms, 15 percent are fattened cattle farms, 13 percent are dairies, and the remaining 12 percent are farms with turkeys, layers, pullets, veal or confined heifers (table 16). Overall, these farms accounted for 85 percent of all fattened cattle on farms with confined livestock types, 23 percent of milk cows, 54 percent of swine, 46 percent of turkeys, and 51 percent of chickens (table 16).

At the most inclusive level-300 EPA animal units-potential CAFOs increase to nearly 4 times the number of potential CAFOs at the 1,000 EPA animal unit level and account for an additional $18 billion in livestock sales. Of these 44,366 farms, 31 percent are broiler farms, 31 percent are swine farms, 10 percent are fattened cattle farms, 16 percent are dairies, and the remaining 12 percent are farms with turkeys, layers, pullets, veal or confined heifers (table 16). Overall, these farms accounted for 91 percent of all fattened cattle on farms with confined livestock types, 44 percent of milk cows, 78 percent of swine, 89 percent of turkeys, and 90 percent of chickens (table 16).

A breakdown of potential CAFOs by state is provided in table 17.

Table 1. Farms with livestock or livestock sales in the 1997 Census of Agriculture, categorized into 3 farm types and 4 farm groups

Table 2. Number of farms with livestock or livestock sales in the 1997 Census of Agriculture, categorized into 4 farm groups, by state

Table 3. Number of farms with livestock or livestock sales in the 1997 Census of Agriculture, categorized into 3 farm types, by state

Table 4. Farms with few livestock in the 1997 Census of Agriculture

Table 5. Profile of farms with few livestock in the 1997 Census of Agriculture

Table 6. Farms with specialty livestock types in the 1997 Census of Agriculture

Table 7. Profile of farms with specialty livestock types in the 1997 Census of Agriculture

Table 8. Farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock in the 1997 Census of Agriculture

Table 9. Profile of farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock in the 1997 Census of Agriculture

Table 10. Profile of farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock in the 1997 Census of Agriculture, by farm size

Table 11. Farms with confined livestock types in the 1997 Census of Agriculture

Table 12. Profile of farms with confined livestock types in the 1997 Census of Agriculture

Table 13. Number of farms with confined livestock types in the 1997 Census of Agriculture, by dominant livestock type for each state

Table 14. Comparison of USDA estimates of potential CAFOs derived from the 1997 Census of Agriculture and estimates by EPA published in the Federal Register for four size classes defined by EPA

Table 15. Potential CAFOs according to farm type, derived from the 1997 Census of Agriculture

Table 16. Profile of potential CAFOs, derived from the 1997 Census of Agriculture

Table 17. Potential CAFOs by state, derived from the 1997 Census of Agriculture

Figure 1. 1997 Farms with livestock or livestock sales, by farm type

Figure 2. 1997 Farms with livestock or livestock sales, by farm group

Figure 3. 1997 Commercial farms, by farm group

Figure 4. 1997 Intermediate farms, by farm group

Figure 5. 1997 Rural-residence farms, by farm group

Figure 6. 1997 Farms with pastured livestock types and few other livestock, by size class

Figure 7. 1997 Farms with confined livestock types, by size class