Ronnie Green, vice president of agriculture and natural resources for the University of Nebraska, discussed the report March 6 at the Governor's Ag Conference in Kearney.
"We all know that livestock is big business in Nebraska," Green said. "Clearly there are opportunities to expand the industry to ensure further economic success in our state."
Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, welcomed the report.
"The report outlines exciting rural development opportunities through the livestock sector," Ibach said. "But it also outlines the critical role local community leaders and public policy makers still have in helping Nebraska achieve its full potential."
The 24-page report, prepared by faculty in UNL's agricultural economics department, notes that the "Nebraska advantage," a reference to the state's unique mix of crop, livestock and biofuel production, has served the state well.
However, the report notes, in some respects Nebraska's livestock industry has fallen behind those in other states.
- 1st in commercial red meat production
- 1st in commercial cattle slaughter
- 2nd in cattle and calves cash receipts
- 3rd in meat animals cash receipts
- 4th in all livestock and products cash receipts
- 4th in beef cows and heifers calved
- 6th in all hogs and pigs produced
The report, prepared in collaboration with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, outlines potential expansion scenarios in beef cattle, dairy cattle, pork and poultry. It also outlines potential obstacles and benefits.
The report concludes: "At this juncture it would appear that the livestock component of this unique system has considerable potential for further expansion. In fact, the long-term economic sustainability of the total crop/livestock/biofuel system and its ability to thrive in the future may hinge upon such expansion as global demand for food products, especially protein-based products, rises. The market forces, both domestic and global, are well positioned to allow investment in and expansion of this state's animal industry in the coming decade."
"As the state's land-grant university," Green said, "we are hoping to use this report as a way to start a statewide conversation about this potential, understanding that all Nebraska citizens have a stake in this matter."
In the section on pork, the report notes that for the prior decade in Nebraska, the annual pig crop increased from about 6.5 million head in 2003 to nearly 7.5 million head in 2012. For this period, the increase represents a healthy increase of nearly 1 million head, occurring mostly during the first half of the decade.
Nebraska is 27th in the nation in the number of dairy cows as well as poultry.
"The production side of the industry is facing the challenges of remaining economically viable in the face of small and highly volatile profit margins in a vertically-integrated industry that is increasingly responding to larger macro-economic forces beyond its control," the report says. "The consequences of this are an industry that is changing rapidly in both the structural configuration of livestock production and its geographic location."