May Is Beef Month in Iowa, But Producers Face Spring Challenges

Iowa cattle producers have reason to celebrate, but their work will likely increase following harsh winter and wet spring

May 21, 2019, 9:08 am | Dan Loy

AMES, Iowa – Ranked fourth for cattle and calves on feed, and 10th for the number of beef cows, Iowa’s beef industry plays a major role in the state’s economy. Iowans have nearly 4 million head of beef cattle on inventory, and market more than 1.8 million head a year.

The state’s beef industry contributes more than $6.3 billion annually to the state’s economy, and supports more than 32,000 jobs, according to a May Beef Month proclamation signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Cattle in field by davidhewison/ Iowans certainly have a lot to celebrate this month, many are also facing the challenges of a cool, wet spring, and the continuous challenge of being profitable amid high feed and input costs.

To help producers overcome these challenges, the Iowa Beef Center and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach have published a number of resources this spring that address common problems, including flooding and grain storage, pasture management, pasture renovation, and grazing and silage options.

In late April, the Iowa Beef Center published a six-tip guide to managing pastures, called “Spring Pasture Management Tips for Cattle Producers.” The guide covers such things as scouting, testing soils and rotating paddocks.

In an article called “Step Two in Flood Recovery — Pasture Renovation,” ISU Extension and Outreach experts discuss what’s involved with renovating damaged pastures.

For cattle and sheep producers who are considering adding forage crops, or grazing to their operation, ISU Extension and Outreach published an article called “Weathering the Weather – Options for Haying, Grazing and Silage.”

Upcoming events

Looking ahead, Iowa beef producers also have a few educational opportunities to put on their calendar. Cattle Feeder’s Day will be held June 13, at the Wallace Foundation Learning Center, and will cover disease detection, nutrition management and the production of high quality beef.

Speaking of “quality,” producers have multiple upcoming opportunities to earn their Beef Quality Assurance certification. Training can be done in person or online. For a list of upcoming trainings, visit the Iowa Beef Quality Assurance Program webpage, at

For more information about beef events at Iowa State University, visit the Iowa Beef Center.

Additional information is available through the Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Iowa Beef Checkoff.

Iowa’s beef cattle standing

Here is a look at where Iowa stands for beef cattle production, in the state and in the nation. Information provided by the Iowa Beef Industry Council, ISU Department of Economics and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Census, 2017.

Total cattle inventory in Iowa            3.95 million head
State rank all cattle and calves        Eighth
Cattle on feed in Iowa                      1.32 million head
State rank cattle/calves on feed       Fourth
Number of beef cows                       950,000 (ranked 10th)
Number of cattle operations             25,367
Number of dairy cows                      220,000


Photo: Cattle in field by davidhewison/

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