Florida’s coast and its Orlando attractions often lead most tourists to assume the state is all beaches and theme parks. Most Floridians understand that our Sunshine State is so much more. There are many hidden gems within the state’s natural wildlife and diverse ecosystem. In fact, once you venture into the more rural areas of the Panhandle or down into the central and southern counties, you’ll learn that cattle roam much of the state’s acreage.
Many of Florida’s ranchers actually represent families who have been in the cattle business for multiple generations. Their knowledge of the industry is backed by valuable passed-on and hands-on experience.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), Florida contains four million acres of pastureland and another million acres of grazed woodland. Much of those 5 million acres is used for cattle production as nearly half of Florida’s agricultural land is dedicated to cattle production.
In the past year, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimated that just over 1.6 million cattle and calves roamed Florida’s beautiful landscape. The majority of Florida’s cattle are raised for beef.
According to the FDACS, Florida is a “cow-calf state.” This means that most of the calves that are produced will be shipped to other states, raised in feedlots, and eventually processed into beef. Most of the states receiving these calves are west of the Mississippi River. Florida contains four of the nation’s ten largest cow-calf operations.
The other part of Florida’s cattle industry is filled with dairy-producing cows. The state’s dairy industry consists of 180,000 cows, heifers, and bulls, FDACS reports. Annual farm gate sales of fresh milk and other dairy products exceed $400 million.
Before any good cattleman invests in new bovine, he\she should first focus on establishing adequate pastures with appropriate facilities custom-fit for the chosen breed of cattle. Senior Advisor of SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler, Jim Allen, echoes that advice as a veteran cattleman. “Buy land at a reasonable price that will appreciate in value,” Allen says, “a well-run cattle operation can offer profit, but the greatest profit potential is in land appreciation.”
Allen adds that Florida ranchers “need to know how to grow grass,” which is the main source of nutrition in a cow-calf operation. Other states with feedlots frequently grow corn to help feed the beef-bred calves. Florida doesn’t grow much corn for cattle feed.
Ranchers should also know a bit about animal husbandry – the science of breeding and caring for farm animals. Buying the right cattle for the right locale will help ensure the cattle thrive and profits rise.
Cattlemen can derive satisfaction from knowing they contribute to Florida’s environmental health. Not only do Florida cattle ranchers take care of their animals, but in doing so, they also serve as good stewards of the land. In providing safe and fertile pastures for their bovine, these cattlemen serve as caretakers for thousands of acres.
“Lands used for cattle production are also important ‘green space’ for wildlife and native plant habitat, aquifer recharge, and carbon recovery” states the FDACS. “Biologists conclude that bird and wildlife populations thrive on lands used for cattle production.”
Cattle were originally brought over from Spain and the Caribbean all the way to Florida and today’s United States in the mid-sixteenth century. It wasn’t until later that organized ranching began with the founding of St. Augustine in 1565. At its conception, organized ranching of cattle was basically herds of bovine that fed local communities.
If you are interested in getting involved in the cattle industry, contact one of expert land advisors today to get started. Each of our agents are highly trained to assist clients in all aspects of buying and selling any land parcel that hits the market. Most of our land agents have backgrounds in ranch management and can help you establish a custom-fit agricultural strategy that serves your production needs.