Tourists visiting only Florida’s coast or the Orlando area often assume the state is all beaches and theme parks. But if they ventured into more rural areas, especially in the Panhandle or the southern interior Heartland counties, they’d learn that cattle roam much of the state’s acreage
The majority of Florida’s cattle – a million cows, heifers
According to FDACS, Florida is a “cow-calf state,” meaning most cows produce calves that are shipped to other states to be raised in feedlots and eventually processed into beef. Florida has four of the nation’s 10 largest cow-calf operations, according to FDACS. Most of the states receiving the calves are west of the Mississippi River.
Another part of Florida’s cattle industry – the dairy industry – consists of 180,000 cows, heifers
Growing Cows and Calves
Florida is replete with ranchers whose families have been in the cattle business for multiple generations, giving them valuable passed-on and hands-on experience.
The cattle industry also has newcomers looking for investment opportunities. Such newcomers can learn much from a University of Florida publication, Florida Cow-Calf Management, Getting Started. “Before purchasing cattle, new cattlemen should first focus on establishing pastures, building adequate facilities, and selecting a breed type,” the publication recommends. The publication adds that “low equipment and land costs afford the greatest profit potential.” Saunders Real Estate sales associate Jim Allen, a veteran cattleman, echoes that advice: “Buy land at a reasonable price that will appreciate in value,” Allen says. Allen says while a well-run cattle operation itself can offer profit, the greatest profit potential is in land appreciation.
Allen adds that ranchers “need to know how to grow grass,” which is the main source of nutrition in a cow-calf operation. He explains that the grass is so important because Florida doesn’t grow much corn for cattle feed. Other states with feedlots do grow corn to feed the calves so they can become beef.
It also helps if ranchers have mechanical skills for fixing equipment and know a bit about animal husbandry – the science of breeding and caring for farm animals. Allen says buying the right cattle for the right locale will help ensure the cattle thrive.
Cattlemen can derive satisfaction from knowing they contribute to Florida’s environmental health. “Florida cattle producers are good ‘stewards of the land’ as owners and caretakers of thousands of acres of pristine native range and pasture land,” FDACS declares on its website. “Lands used for cattle production are also important ‘green space’ for wildlife and native plant habitat, aquifer recharge
Cattle from Andalusia, Spain