Grain Bins


Gearing up for National Beef Month, fed by South Dakota’s corn farmers

Posted on April 28, 2021
SD Beef blog image v2 1

As the saying goes, “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner,” and that statement has never caused so much conversation between consumers, farmers and even politicians like it has the past several months.

It all began when “MeatOut day” was declared in Colorado, a day in which attempted to sway meat-eaters to try a plant-based diet. This caused controversy within the state since, like many states in the region, agriculture is a major contributor to Colorado’s economy.

Not only did legislators in Colorado speak out against the movement, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association organized its own “Meat In” movement. Other states including our neighbors in Nebraska and Iowa took notice.

April was declared “Meat on the Table” month in Iowa and March 20 was called “Meat on the Menu” day in Nebraska, both of which were designed to show support for the livestock industry and the value they bring to food options for consumers.

As we round out the month of April and prepare for National Beef Month in May, let’s take a look at how the beef industry impacts agriculture in South Dakota.

Beef in South Dakota:

South Dakota’s consumers and farmers love beef, no matter if it’s the sizzle of a steak fresh off the grill or a piece of beef jerky they grab as a snack heading out the door taking the kids to soccer practice. Farmers across the state help make these delicious options possible with their hard work and dedication to the cattle they work with every day and the feed they grow.

Cory Eich, a Mitchell beef, corn and soybean farmer and member of the National Beef Board couldn’t agree more.

“Corn and cattle really do go hand-in-hand,” Eich said. “They are both some of the top commodities and really rely on one another to be successful. Long before it was popular we were always really keen on grazing cattle on corn stalks and using them as feed for the winter.”

Eich said one of the most common misconceptions about beef and grain farming is that farmers can’t have both within their operations to be successful. However, both are vitally important to the ag economy in the state.

“Cattle probably aren’t going to be the homerun hitter like they used to be in the past and grain farming is now. Cattle can be more along the lines of hitting singles. The cattle feeding industry has been a challenge the last few years, but I believe if you run your herd frugally, such as using corn stalks and byproducts as much as you can, you can really expand without expending too much of your acreage.”

Here are some fast facts about beef in South Dakota:

  • Beef cattle ranching and farming contribute nearly $1.8 billion to the state’s economy.

  • South Dakota ranks 5th in the nation for beef cow inventory and 7th for cattle and calf sales.

  • 57% of the agriculture jobs in South Dakota deal directly with livestock, including cattle.

  • 53% of the state’s agricultural output comes from livestock sales.

  • Livestock feed use of corn, including feed for cattle, totals 110 million bushels for the state.

  • One in four bushels of increased feed use of corn was exported through beef and pork.

To learn more about the beef industry and its impact on agriculture in South Dakota, check out the latest SDDA Economic Contribution Study here.

Fueling our beef export economy with corn:

Exports of livestock and beef make up an enormous part of South Dakota’s agriculture economy, especially considering there is more head of cattle in the state than people. In fact, according to USMEF, South Dakota’s corn growers would have lost $256 million in 2019 without red meat exports from the state. The question then is, where does beef come in for grain farmers?

Livestock and corn industries go hand-in-hand because corn is a primary feed source for livestock, including beef cattle. If more cattle are being produced, more corn is required to feed those cattle. Simply put, as demand for beef grows, so grows the demand for corn.

Creating demand requires work overseas to promote the product and educate international customers about the quality and value of U.S. beef. This is the role of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, a Denver-based organization with a mission of increasing the value and profitability of the U.S. beef, pork and lamb industries through exports.

Behind USMEF’s work around the globe, the U.S. exported 1.25 million metric tons of beef valued at $7.65 billion in 2020. Yes, 1.25 million metric tons – that’s a lot of cattle being fed a lot of corn.

Not to mention, the projected value of red meat exports from South Dakota is only anticipated to rise. From 2020-2029 the projected market value is expected to climb to $944 million.

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom says quantifying the value delivered by beef exports is reassuring to corn farmers, who provide critical support for USMEF's efforts to expand global demand for U.S. red meat.

"USMEF greatly appreciates the foresight and confidence shown by the corn sectors when they invest in red meat exports, and this study provides a detailed analysis of the value delivered by that investment," said Halstrom

Find out more data and statistics from USMEF’s Exporting South Dakota Corn through U.S. Beef and Pork informational resource. Download it here from their site.

SD Corn Supports Livestock Development:

While livestock production is important to South Dakota’s ag economy, it also creates demand for corn in the state. The South Dakota Corn Utilization Council (SDCUC) and Corn Growers Association (SDCGA) have made it a priority to expand and promote livestock production.

SDCUC and other ag organizations came together to create Ag United for South Dakota, an organization dedicated to promoting and advancing farm and ranch families and rural communities in South Dakota.

SDCGA also promotes legislation in the state that benefits livestock as a strong advocate for policy change. Some of the recent victories include advocating for a change to allow haying, grazing or chopping cover crops on prevented plant acres two months earlier than normal last fall, as well as supporting grants to small meat processors in the latest legislative session.

We also partner with South Dakota State University to conduct research, as well as collaborate with the U.S. Grains Council and the U.S. Meat Export Federation on projects that support livestock in the state.

Be sure to check out our legislation and market development webpages at to learn more about this and other markets and organizations we partner with to add value to our state’s ag industry.

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