February 21, 2001 | By: Aimee D. Heald

With roughly 60 percent of Kentucky's farms having cattle, it is safe to say the cattle industry has a big impact on the state's farm economy. Agricultural Economic Specialists at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture talk a lot about the "cattle cycle" and how it affects producers and consumers.

For example, specialists say the Commonwealth is now in an expansion phase of the cycle. Cattle numbers are rising, the market is strong and beef consumption is gaining popularity.

"Consumers have rediscovered beef," said Lee Meyer, UK agricultural economist. "Demand is the strongest it has been in more than 25 years. The real evidence that consumer attitudes toward beef have changed is price. Even though there was more beef on the market, the buyers still paid more, with prices up about five percent."

Kentucky producers could profit well from their current position in the cattle cycle. Meyer said cattle numbers actually are at the bottom part of the cycle, which means stronger prices as cattle are held off the market to rebuild herds. Since rebuilding is usually a three-to-five-year process, farmers can expect good prices for the next few years.

"The most recent USDA report confirmed a steady number of cattle in the U.S. and prospects for several years of tight beef supplies and good calf prices," Meyer said. "Kentucky is ahead right now and that could be good for our producers if it takes the rest of the U.S. a while to catch up."

Producers will have to stay on top of things and make some important choices in the future. Consumers are demanding more easy-to- prepare and high-quality products. Meat processors who are delivering these products are doing well. Successful cattle producers will be ones who give these processors the right type of cattle.

Farmers also can share profits through alliances. Local meat systems are being developed around the state. "The bottom line is that the farm situation is changing," Meyer added. "Producers have the opportunity to be part of that change, and do it under their conditions if they act carefully."


Lee Meyer 859-257-7276