Cattle in Virginia

Angus cattle grazing in Louisa County, south of Lake Anna
Angus cattle grazing in Louisa County, south of Lake Anna

Cows in Virginia come in two kinds - meat and dairy. In 2020, there were 1.45 million cattle in Virginia:1

- Beef cows that have calved: 626,000
- Milk cows that have calved: 74,000
- Heifers 500 pounds and over for beef cow replacement: 93,000
- Heifers 500 pounds and over for dairy cow replacement: 33,000
- Heifers 500 pounds (other): 64,000
- Steers 500 pounds and over: 165,000
- Bulls 500 pounds and over: 40,000
- Calves under 500 pounds: 355,000

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic occurred as milk demand was declining and dairy farms were closing. Closure of restaurants and other food-service establishments almost eliminated 40% of the market, and panic buying in grocery stores did not offset the loss.

In the previous two years, 100 dairy farms in Virginia had closed, and only 450 remained. The sift in demand was too quick for fresh milk producers to shift to production of yogurt, cheese, and other more-lasting products. One farmer noted how the supply chain would be slow to adapt to the abrupt disruption of the market, and how that would impact prices for fresh milk:2

Until processors change their packaging or what they鈥檝e been processing to meet the grocery demand versus the restaurants and school demand, there鈥檚 still going to be low prices.

meat rations for Union soldiers in the Civil War were marched behind the armies
meat rations for Union soldiers in the Civil War were marched behind the armies
Source: Library of Congress, Army beef swimming the Occoquan River, Virginia (by Alfred R. Waud, 1863)

in a heavily-grazed field, even the trees can show evidence of hungry cattle
in a heavily-grazed field, even the trees can show evidence of hungry cattle

Links

References

1. "January 1 Cattle Inventory Down Slightly," National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), US Department of Agriculture, January 31, 2020, https://usda.library.cornell.edu/concern/publications/h702q636h (last checked February 3, 2020)
2. "Dairy farms worry about staying afloat during pandemic," Virginia Business, April 16, 2020, https://www.virginiabusiness.com/article/va-dairy-farmer (last checked April 21, 2020)


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