America’s top 25 beef cow counties

Nebraska’s home to top three beef counties

Nebraska, with 1.9 million beef cows, is the fourth-largest state by beef cow numbers.

Texas is America’s top beef cow state, with 4.57 million head. In fact, Texas boasts 14 percent of all the nation’s beef cows, yet only two Texas counties makes the top-25 list of America’s leading beef cow counties. Ranking number 13 on the list is Lavaca County with 67,102 cows, and Gonzales County at number 18 with 57,341 cows. Our top 25 beef cow counties was revealed in data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture released in April, 2019.

Similar to Texas, Missouri is America’s second-leading beef cow state with 2.16 million cows, yet only one county cracks the top-25, Polk at number 19 with 56,448 cows. And Oklahoma, the nation’s third-largest beef cow state, also put only one county, Osage, with 57,999 cows, into the top-25 beef cow county list.

One state, however, is home to the nation’s top four beef cow counties. (Note: This is a list of beef cows only. Feedlot and stocker cattle are not included in the list.)

Nebraska, with 1.9 million beef cows, the fourth-largest state by beef cow numbers, is home to the nation’s top four beef counties. Coming in at number four is Lincoln County, home to 80,188 beef cows. Custer County is number three with 94,958 beef cows, and Holt County, is number two at 96,467 beef cows.

The nation’s top beef cow county is Cherry County, located in north-central Nebraska. Cherry County’s total number of beef cows is estimated by Drovers at 148,893. The National Agricultural Statistics Service did not report a beef cow number in the 2017 Census of Agriculture for Cherry County, due to its commitment to avoid disclosing individual data.

Here’s what NASS says about such omissions, “If publishing a particular data item would identify an operation (for example, if there is only one producer of a particular commodity in a county), NASS does not publish the information. In such cases, the data are suppressed and shown as ‘(D),’ meaning ‘withheld to avoid disclosing data for individual operations.’”

NASS, however, did report beef cow numbers for Cherry County in the 2012 Census of Agriculture. In that report, NASS listed 135,852 beef cows in Cherry County, owned by 769 operations.

Drovers arrived at its estimate of 148,893 cows for 2017 by increasing the 2012 total by 9.6 percent, which is the percentage of Nebraska’s beef cow herd increase from 2012 to 2017.

The top five counties are (*Drovers Estimate):

1) Cherry County, Neb.: 148,000 beef cows* / 24.8 cows per sq. mile

2) Holt County, Neb.: 6,467 beef cows / 39.9 cows per sq. mile

3) Custer County, Neb.: 94,958 beef cows* / 36.9 cows per sq. mile

4) Lincoln County, Neb.: 80,188 beef cows / 31.1 cows per sq. mile

5) Fergus County, Mont.: 79,847 beef cows / 18.3 cows per sq. mile

Counties ranked in order from sixth through twenty-fifth are: Meade County, S.D.; Elko County, Nevada; Malheur, Oregon; Tulare County, Cali.; Beaverhead County, Mont.; Tripp County, S.D.; Harney County, Oregon; Lavaca County, Texas; Osceola County, Florida; Perkins County, S.D.; Osage County, Okla.; Weld County, Colo.; Gonzales, Texas; Polk County, Missouri; Fremont County, Wyo.; Custer County, Mont.; Sheridan County, Wyo.; Carter County, Mont.; Morton County, N.D.; and Polk County, Florida.

For the complete list of data, visit:

(Editor’s note: This list was updated July 10, 2019, to include Lavaca County, Tex., and Custer County, Neb., to the Top 25. Lavaca County will become No. 11 with 70,667 cows, and Custer County becomes No. 3 with 94,958. Those numbers are Drovers estimates based on their 2012 Ag Census numbers. The number of cows in those counties were not reported by the Ag Census for 2017. An explanation for those omissions appears at the end of this article.)


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