Oregon’s bovine businesses are booming.
Cattle, dairy and hay for livestock feed have topped Oregon’s list of highest grossing agricultural commodities for six years running, taking three of the top four slots each year. For two out of the past three years, live cattle for beef was Oregon’s No. 1 commodity in agriculture, the state’s second-largest industry.
This translates to a whopping 1.3 million cattle spread across the state among farms, ranches, feedlots and dairies, large and small.
In Western Oregon, where the pasture is lush, it takes 2 acres to feed a single cow. East of the Cascades, where there isn’t much to nibble on, it takes vastly greater space, often on public lands and in direct competition with other wildlife that depend on scarce desert resources to survive.
Oregon is currently faced with uncertainty about its groundwater reserves and is falling far short of meeting its greenhouse gas reduction goals. At the same time, climate change is forcing the state into an era of more frequent droughts and a changing landscape. Is it wise to continue to pour limited resources into nourishing more than a million cattle?...