February 20, 2017

We know what's for dinner, but how about breakfast?

Poultry, dairy and pork offer significant opportunity for Nebraska’s economy.

Nebraska’s reputation as “The Beef State” is well deserved. After all, Nebraska consistently battles Texas for the top national spot for cattle on feed – and Nebraska processes more cattle than any other state.

But, diversification is as important in agriculture as it is in one’s personal investment portfolio. “Diversity can help protect producers and our state’s economy from market volatility,” said Willow Holoubek, executive director of the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN). “That’s why we need to expand awareness of the value of livestock production in Nebraska.”

The animals that produce eggs, bacon and milk offer a significant opportunity for responsible livestock expansion across the state.

Hendrix-ISA, a Netherlands based company, recently announced a $10 million, 60,000 square-foot chicken hatchery in Grand Island that will hatch 100,000 chicks every day. Nebraska is also home to several egg-laying facilities as well as the SmartChicken processing plant in Tecumseh. The state continues to be the center of attention of other poultry-related companies seeking a location, with a major poultry operation considering a location near Fremont.

“I think people are a little surprised by the surge of poultry interest in Nebraska, but it makes sense when you think about it,” said Courtney Dentlinger, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. “With a smaller poultry industry, we have fewer biosecurity concerns. We have a good supply of water and feedstuffs that poultry producers need.”

Nebraska has been mounting an aggressive initiative to attract both dairy farmers and dairy processing to the state, as well as help existing dairy operators expand. Nebraska is home to 180 dairies with an average size of 300 cows.

The Nebraska Corn Board is helping support the effort to attract additional milk processing to Nebraska, with a special emphasis on specialty cheeses. The “Grow Nebraska Dairy” initiative is being led by the Nebraska State Dairy Association, A-FAN, Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Nebraska Department of Economic Development and Nebraska Extension.

“A single dairy cow generates about $5,000 in farm sales each year and the majority of that is spent within 50 miles of the dairy itself,” said Rod Johnson, executive director of the Nebraska State Dairy Association. “So one 300-cow operation is a $1.5 million business in a community.”

“A 2,000-head dairy can put $10 million in economic vitality into the local community – and that number repeats itself every year,” said A-FAN’s Willow Holoubek. “Those dollars are generated through salaries, grain purchases from local farmers, nutritionists, veterinarians, trucking and many other activities.”

Pork production is another growth opportunity for the state, especially in diversifying a crop operation. A single 2,400 head hog finishing barn uses roughly 43,000 bushels of corn and provides a continuous and long-term supply of manure, which can improve soil quality and reduce input costs.

Typically, the farmer owns the facility and contracts with a company to finish the hogs. A 2,400-head hog barn can create a total annual net return to the farmer of more than $87,000 including the added value of the manure he puts on his fields.

“Integrating hog finishing into a row crop operation provides dependable, long-term annual return, increases annual farm income, and creates opportunity for the next generation of farmers,” said Al Juhnke, director of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.

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