"The decrease in tobacco growing has released some other resources," McKinnon says, explaining that farming operations have slowly been shifting people, money and their land to other agricultural businesses particularly beef cattle.
While Virginia has been "one of the top 20 states for beef cattle" for the better part of two decades, the state recently logged a record 747,000 head of beef cattle in the state, breaking a record set in 1997. The state's beef-cattle business is worth about $1.26 billion in Virginia, McKinnon says.
"Part of it is that we really have a good climate for cow production: a lot of rainfall, great land for pastures," McKinnon says. Cattle farming also "adds to the beauty and tourism of the state," he says.
It's also a matter of supply and demand. Nationwide, a lack of beef-cattle supply has driven up prices, McKinnon says, resulting in higher prices for cattle.
The association says that the cattle industry is more productive now then it was 20 or 30 years ago. "We've been able to reap these higher cattle prices to affect the number of cows," McKinnon says. "We're in record high cattle prices right now so the enterprise is more profitable." S