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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released county data from its 2012 Census of Agriculture. State-by-state and nationwide statistics were released earlier this year showing an aging farm population, increased crop acres and decreasing numbers of beef and dairy cattle when compared to the last census in 2007. For the most part Marion County has followed the same trends.
The average age of farmers in Marion County was 54.8 years in 2007. This increased to 56.6 years in 2012. Marion County farmers are younger than the statewide average, which was 56.5 in 2007 and 57.6 in 2012. The average age increased at a faster rate than statewide, however, due to fewer retirements. The number of farm operations in Marion County (defined as farms under one management) fell 3.7 percent from 1055 in 2007 to 1016 in 2012. Statewide the number of farm operations fell by 9.6 percent from 85,260 to 77,064. Many of these farmers left through retirement.
The type of farming in Marion County has transitioned towards more grain farming and fewer beef and dairy cattle. Harvested cropland increased by 19.6 percent in the county over the five year period, from 51,757 acres in 2007 to 61,911 acres in 2012, a gain of 10,154 acres of row crops. This growth came from lost hay and pasture ground. Pasture acreage fell by 9.7 percent from 66,734 to 60,274 and hay acreage fell by 19 percent from 38,922 to 31,510, resulting in a loss of 13,872 acres for livestock purposes. To show how grain farming has grown, the number of self-propelled combines owned in the county increased from 31 in 2007 to 73 in 2012. Across Kentucky the trend was the same with crop acres up 5.8 percent, hay acres down 16.9 percent and pasture acres down 18.9 percent.
The result of the loss of hay and pasture acres was that the number of beef and dairy cows has fallen. The number of cows of breeding age in the county fell from 22,336 in 2007 to 20,615 in 2012, a decrease of 7.7 percent. The number of dairy cows fell from 3608 to 2803 over the same period, a reduction of 22.3 percent. Statewide the trend is similar with beef cows falling by 15.5 percent and dairy cows falling by 20.6 percent.
The number of other cattle in Marion County, which includes calves, stocker cattle bought elsewhere and brought into the county, and replacement breeding stock that has not yet calved, actually grew by 6519 head, from 20,066 to 26,585, a gain of 32.5 percent. This far exceeded the gain statewide of 6.6 percent. Much of this gain locally is due to farmers raising calves on feed to a heavier weight than in previous years. In the past many cattle were sold at weaning weighing around 500 pounds. Many farmers are now keeping their calves or buying calves at these weights and feeding them until they reach 800 to 900 pounds. Many of these cattle are fed in feedlots with distillers grain by-products from ethanol and bourbon production.
Marion County is still cattle country, however, as the total cattle population of slightly over 50,000 head far exceeded the 2010 census population of 19,820 people!
Tobacco production in Kentucky remained about the same but with far fewer producers. In 2007, 8113 farms in Kentucky grew tobacco on 87,641 acres. In 2012 the acres were nearly the same at 87,931, but the number of farms growing tobacco fell by almost half, to 4537 farms. In Marion County the number of farms reporting tobacco production fell from 169 in 2007 to 100 in 2012. Total acres fell from 1500 to 1221.
The increase in grain farming and reduction in beef has been due to the extraordinary rise in grain prices over the last few years. The resulting squeeze on cattle population nationwide has caused beef prices to skyrocket. It will be interesting to see if high beef prices and more moderate grain prices will cause a shift back toward more cattle and less grain.
The Marion County Cattlemen’s Association will meet Tuesday June 3, at Floral Hall at the Fairgrounds. Dr. Beth Johnson from the Office of the state veterinarian will speak on the subject of persistently infected BVD calves and the new reporting and disposition requirements for animals testing positive for the disease.
The Central Kentucky Premier Heifer Sale will be held on Saturday, June 7, at the Marion County Fairgrounds. Approximately 185 fall calving heifers will be available for sale. All heifers have been inspected by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, vaccinated, pelvic measured, and will be guaranteed to be bred for thirty days following the sale. All heifers were bred to calving ease bulls. If you are looking to expand your herd this is an excellent opportunity to obtain high quality breeding stock.
The next beekeepers meeting will be this evening, Wednesday, June 11, at 6:30 p.m. at the Marion County Extension Office.
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