One Animal Unit (AU) is equal to 1,000 pounds. Each animal has an animal unit measurement designated based on the average weight of that animal. For example, a cow raised for beef is designated by the USDA as being, on average, 1,200 pounds and is 1.2 AUs, a laying hen is 3.5 pounds and is 0.0035 AUs. These measurements are calculated to make the data comparable across species and locations, and allow for time series trend analysis. (Additionally, to understand more about the way animal units are calculated for capacity purposes in Iowa see the DNR’s website here.)

The Midwest has a high demand for animal feed, this concentration of animal units drives feed production. The amount of feed produced in the Midwest also encourages the proximity of animals to this area of large production. Of the Midwest states Kansas (5.8 million AUs/6.9 million animals) has the highest number of beef cattle animal units, the next state is Iowa (2.8 million AUs/3.3 million animals). Trends in market share of Midwest beef production have stayed relatively steady over the last decade. The largest producer, Kansas, shrunk by 12 percent while the rest of the states remained relatively steady between 2004 and 2016.  

Iowa has a significant number of beef cow animal units within the state and has maintained a stable number of cattle since 2004. Other states have battled drought conditions causing a decrease in cattle herds.

Turkey, dairy cows, broiler chickens, laying hens, and hog reports of the same nature as this report are also available. See

      ·     Hogs

·         Laying hens

·         Turkeys

·         Dairy Cows

·         Broilers

Preston Lyman is a Research Analyst with Decision Innovation Solutions (DIS). DIS is an Iowa-Based economic research firm which provides regular farm economics research and analysis to the Iowa Farm Bureau staff and members.