This classification includes establishments deriving 50 percent or more of their total value of sales of agricultural products from livestock and animal specialties and their products, but less than 50 percent from products of any single three-digit industry group.
All Other Animal Production
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a total of 2.12 million farms were in operation in 2002. General livestock farms account for only a very limited number of livestock and poultry farms, as most sales in this category come from farms specializing in a specific animal. General livestock farms tend to be small, with fewer than 50 employees and modest sales, though some, such as Euribrid BV, a subsidiary of Nutreco Holding N.V., and Nevada Nile Ranch Inc. registered multimillion-dollar sales volumes. Farmers in this category mostly maintained traditional livestock, such as sheep, cattle, hogs, turkeys, and chickens, though many diversified into more specialty animals, such as elk, bison, and llamas. In addition, most general livestock farmers harvested traditional crops as well, either for feed or for retail.
The roots of general farming in the United States go back many years. A period of specialization occurred in the nineteenth century; general farming, however, remained ubiquitous but was concentrated particularly in the Appalachians. Farm wisdom advises against "putting all your eggs in one basket," and there are many beneficial combinations of different types of livestock and crops.
Perhaps the most severe challenge facing general livestock farmers at the beginning of the twenty-first century was the severe lull in agricultural-commodity prices, due in large part to the massive production levels generated by large-scale factory farming; factory farms, generating an increasing share of national agricultural output, are further able to produce their goods at lower costs, further exacerbating the pricing crisis. The net result has been to squeeze small and mid-sized farmers, which constitute the bulk of the general livestock farms in the United States, out of the market place if they are unable to find an appropriate niche allowing them to create economies of scale. The average size of farms between 1997 and 2002 grew from 431 acres to 441 acres, and the number of farms with 2,000 acres or more grew from 74,426 to 78,037.
Many livestock farmers have been successful in finding their niche in the growing organic-foods industry. Targeting customers concerned with the health and environmental risks associated with chemicals, pesticides, and genetically modified foods, the...