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Colorado is More than a Pretty Face

Posted by Terry Matlock, Public Affairs Specialist, NASS Mountain Region in Research and Science
Jul 29, 2021
Cattle and calves grazing in a pasture at the foot of the Rocky Mountains
Cattle and calves graze in a pasture at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Colorado ranks fifth in the nation in cattle and calve inventory, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Photo by David Mark, Pixabay.

For some, agriculture may not be the first thought that comes to mind when you think of Colorado. Mountains, lakes, and national parks might come first. But to the proud 69,032 farmers and ranchers operating in Colorado, agriculture is their primary thought.

Of the total land area of 66.3 million acres, 31.8 million acres were used by the 38,893 farms and ranches throughout the state, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

The state’s market value of agriculture products sold was $7.49 billion. Although very diverse, livestock is the No.1 commodity accounting for $5.3 billion or 70 percent of total value. The inventory for cattle and calves makes Colorado 10th in the nation with 2.8 million head; Colorado places fifth in the U.S. with 1 million cattle on feed.

The Centennial State also had a large flock of sheep and goats that counted more than 460,000 head. Sales of sheep, goats, wool, mohair, and milk from these animals surpassed $146.9 million in 2017. That represents a substantial increase of 59 percent over the sales of 2012.

Just because the livestock industry dominates the farming sector, doesn’t mean that the crop industry should be ignored. You probably hear more about the contributions of corn, hay, winter wheat, or sorghum producers, but some other crop growers have amazing accomplishments of their own. For example, those who enjoy sunflower seeds, or like to cook with sunflower seed oil, will be happy to know that Colorado growers produced more than 77.3 million pounds of sunflower seeds in 2017 – that makes Colorado the third largest producer of sunflower seeds in the country.

On the vegetable side, producers harvested nearly 60,000 acres of potatoes in 2017 and more than 3,845 acres of sweet corn. These two crops were the state’s leading vegetables in 2017. On top of these, farmers also harvested more than 2,700 acres of peaches and 1,500 acres of apples.

Want to know more about agriculture in Colorado? Additional facts and figures are available in the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

Category/Topic: Research and Science