LOUISVILLE, K.Y. – Cattle dot the hillsides all across the Commonwealth, in fact more than two million of them, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture.  Cattle are raised on 38,657 farms in the state, which is just more than half of all farms. Cattle and calf sales totaled $1.0 billion in the state, or 17 percent of all agricultural sales, making it the commodity with the second largest value of sales.

“Raising cattle is both a way of life and a business in the Commonwealth,” said David Knopf, Director, Eastern Mountain Region. “Rural economies and communities are supported by livestock production and the Census data shows cattle production continues to be a strong economic driver.”

In Kentucky there were 38,657 cattle operations, with 2,155,894 head of cattle and calves. Both the number of farms and number of cattle have decreased since the last Census of Agriculture in 2012. The number of farms fell by four percent, while the number of cattle and calves was down five percent.

Barren County had the largest inventory of cattle and calves with 85,544 head. Madison had the second largest inventory, followed by Pulaski, Lincoln and Bourbon.

Forty-seven of the counties had inventory increases from 2012. Allen county increased by 7,630 head, while Wayne County dropped by 14,344.

Breckinridge County had the largest increase in the number of farms, 92 farms, while the largest decrease was 124 farms in Lincoln County.

Other cattle facts for Kentucky include:

  • Top 5 Counties ranked by number of operations: Barren, Pulaski, Warren, Madison, Breckinridge.
  • Top 5 Counties ranked by sales: Allen, Madison, Bourbon, Lincoln, Mercer.
  • Average cattle sales per farm was $31, 218. Allen County had the largest average sales per farm, $104,044. 
  • Average number of head per farm was 56. Boyle County had the highest average, 121 head per farm.
  • Operations with 1 – 9 head, 24 percent; 10 – 19 head, 18 percent; 20 – 49 head, 28 percent; 50 - 99 head 16 percent ; 100 – 499 head 13 percent; 500 or more head, 1 percent.

All Census of Agriculture information is available at Conducted since 1840, it remains the only source of comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the nation and is invaluable for planning the future. 


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