According to numbers released this week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the number of farms/ranches in the United States continued to decline in 2012 to an estimated 2.2 million. That is down 11,630 from last year. The total land in farms/ranches is 914 million acres, which is a decrease of 3 million acres from 2011. The average farm size, 421 acres, is up an acre.
The number of sheep operations, 79,500, is down by 1 percent from 80,000 in 2011 with cattle, dairy and swine operations also declining somewhat.
Sheep operators owning between one and 99 head of breeding sheep increased from 93.5 percent to 93.9 percent of the total operations while the total percentage of the inventory held by this group decreased to 35.3 percent from 35.9 percent.
The percentage of the inventory held by sheep operators owning 100 to 499 head of breeding sheep stayed consistent at 21.1 percent; however, the percentage of operations in this category decreased from 5.4 percent to 5 percent indicating fewer operations own more inventory.
The opposite is true of the group owning 500 head of breeding sheep or more where a consistent 1.1 percent of all operators own 43.3 percent of the inventory. This is up from 40 percent in 2011.
USDA's Farms, Land in Farms and Livestock Operations 2012 Summary report is available at http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/MannUsda/viewDocumentInfo.do?documentID=1259. This annual report presents data on the number of farms, the average size of farms and the economic sales class estimates.