USDA Census Finds Less Value in U.S. Horses

USDA Census Finds Less Value in U.S. Horses
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

The number of farms, horses, and total value of sales for all United States-based equines significantly decreased from 2007 to 2012, according to a recent census conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service.

USDA-NASS defines farms or ranches as producing more than $1,000 in agricultural products or sales each year. Using this criteria, USDA-NASS complied a database of approximately 3 million farm owners and sent them surveys to complete. USDA-NASS estimated around 80% of respondents completed the survey.

In its census, the USDA census counted only horses on farms or ranches producing more than $1,000 in agricultural products or sales annually.

The census did not count horses used solely for racing, showing, or recreation. For example, a farm that breeds and sells horses for racing would be included in the census because an agricultural product (a horse) is being produced and sold.

But a stable that only boards horses would not be counted because no agricultural product is produced or sold. Horses, regardless of use, can be counted if they reside on a farm or ranch that meets USDA-NASS criteria for farms or ranches.

Following is a list of notable results from the USDA-NASS census:

1. There were 504,795 farms and ranches with horses, a decrease of 71,146 from 2007.
2. These farms and ranches had a total of 3,621,348 horses, a decrease of 407,479 from 2007.
3. There were 98,379 farms and ranches with 292,590 mules, donkeys, and burros, an 8,782 increase from 2007.
4. The total value of sales for all equines in 2012 was $1.391 billion, a decrease of approximately $691 million from 2007.
5. 114,255 farms and ranches reported sales of equines.
6. The most common size of farms and ranches with horses was 10-49 acres, with 184,743 in this size range.
7. 489,961 farms and ranches have fewer than 24 horses.
8. More than 1,000 farms and ranches reported more than $1 million in equine sales.
9. More than 54,000 farms and ranches reported sales in the $10,000-$24,999 range.
10. More than 110,000 farms and ranches registered more than 1.3 million horses for tax purposes.
11. There were 79,188 farms and ranches owned by individuals over the age of 65, accounting for more than 620,000 horses.

According to the census, Texas has the highest population of horses in the United States. The Lone Star State reported 64,114 farms with horses, 395,818 total horses, 14,127 farms with equine sales, and 49,861 horses sold.

Kentucky ranked fourth on the list, reporting 19,012 farms with horses, 141,842 total horses, 4,256 farms with equine sales, and 17,369 horses sold.

The other top 10 states with the highest populations of horses are Oklahoma, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, Colorado, and Wisconsin.  

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