America’s Top 33 Beef Cow Counties 

April 17, 2024

Cherry County, Neb., is America’s top beef cow county with 184,716 cows, more than twice the number as the county with the second most, Holt County, also in Nebraska. A third Nebraska county, Lincoln, lands in the sixth spot of the Top 33 beef cow counties with 75,582 cows. Statewide, Nebraska ranks as the nation’s fourth in terms of total beef cows.                    

Our list of the Top 33 beef cow counties has a total of 20,054 producers with 2,163,017 cows, for an average herd size of 108 head. Together these 33 counties account for 7% of the nation’s 29.4 million beef cows and 3% of beef operations. The state with the most beef cows, Texas, lands five counties in the Top 33 beef cow counties, but only one in the top 10, Lavaca. The second largest beef cow state, Oklahoma, has three counties in the Top 33, but only one in the top 10, Osage.

This list of counties could have stopped at 25, but that would have ignored several counties with large cow numbers that fall just outside the 25th spot. Indeed, a total of 19 counties have between 50,000 and 60,000 beef cows, so the cutoff to make this list became 50,000 cows. South Dakota, the state with the fifth most beef cows, landed seven counties on the list of 33, with Meade the largest with 81,773 beef cows.

In addition to Nebraska and Oklahoma, three other states have three counties in our Top 33 – Florida, Montana and Missouri.

Three states that rank in the top 10 nationally for beef cow numbers according to the Jan. 1, 2024, Inventory report, do not have a single county in the Top 33 – Kansas, North Dakota and Kentucky.

Note: Tulare County, California, ranked in the top 10 counties in the 2017 Census, but dropped out of the top 25 counties with a 52% herd decline from 72,778 beef cows in 2017 to 34,580 beef cows in 2022. The number of operations declined from 389 to 359 (-8%).

Source: Drovers