Where is there more livestock than people?

Continuing my investigation of the USDA Quickstats site I first used here

Notes on inspiration

I was first inspired to do this piece when I saw these analogous maps for France:

I figured that the USDA data I’d already been digging into had to have the data for the USA, and in fact, it did!

The data has holes in it–a county may appear one year but not the next. I got around this by using the most recent post-2010 data available for each county+animal type. When comparing these values to the human population, I made sure to use the ACS data for that same year.

The aesthetics came together very quickly. I considered doing the thing as Jules Grandin and keeping the maps ultra simple, but ultimately couldn’t resist showing the animal:human ratios instead of just which counties had more animals.

The first map ended up scratching that “ultra simple” itch, but with a bit of a twist. I chose not to show ratios in that one because it already has so much going on–I think adding in gradients of color just would have made it hard to read. I’m also quite proud of my venn diagram legend there!


  1. “They” say that wild horses are overpopulated in west. Is this true? Some say the cattle industry says this so that they can have more grazing land for cattle ($$). What does the map show?


  2. NOT TRUE! Cattle lobyists want more and more public lands (not so different from a general profiteers’ greed) for their cattle; BUT…they want wild horses, so emblematic of our country’s history, run to death by helicopters, the survivors penned up for sale (to some equine enthusiasts) to slaughter houses hidden in many states or shipped tortuously to Mexican slaughter houses. FYI – I, too, eat beef.


    • That’s not true. The common narrative that ranchers are greedy and want more and more public land is false. The reality is that more and more public land is taken from them (not for their exclusive use) and nobody can afford to run cows on their own land, because land is no longer valued based on its production value. The exceptions are the big corporations that employ economies of scale. The the comon rancher is struggling to survive and most often needs a second job just to survive. The problem with the wild horses is that they occupy marginal land that can only support so many. I’ve wild herd thrive and I’ve seen them starve. It’s not a sight you want to see. Do your own research away from the MSM please.


      • last October my son and I hunted in far Northern CA near OR border. In an area almost without signs of human activity we came across a herd of wild horses. I hadn’t heard of them but my son interacts with ranchers regularly and these horses are a whispered legend. I’ve never seen such healthy animals! All alone near the Klamath River up around 5,500′ in the juniper and broken lava country.

        Some things are best left alone.


    • I agree with you. I am very concerned re: American mustangs. That is why I asked 2 questions re: horses which were not included as livestock (is that because they are not allowed as a good source in the uS?)


  3. I live in Iowa and see chicken factories hog and cow confinements. That is why these animals outnumber humans. Look it up and see what one looks like. It’s disgusting!!!


  4. I grew up in the Sandhills of Nebraska, rode a horse 9 years to a one-room school house. The part of the equation that is left out is our well-meaning but dimwitted Congress outlawed meatpackers to process horses. My son worked at a Grade A facility that butchered horses for markets in Quebec, Belgium, and France. Nobody got rid of their pets, their good riding or breeding stock or the few workhorses or racers the country produces. It however, provided a humane market for starving wild horses and aging ranch and farm horses.
    Now they routinely die of starvation (they are more numerous than any time since their introduction by the Spanish 400 years ago.) There is little money in cattle in the areas that they both habitate; but there is NO money in horses. And non-studied critics that know nothing of the decades-long drought, the legalized conscription of waters by California from Colorado, Arizona, Nevada & Utah that exacerbate the dry conditions, and haven’t seen the rib-protruding equines of the deserts, need to run for Congress where the rest of their ilk are located. FYI, I also ride horses and eat beef rather than eating horses and riding bulls (I’m too old and uncoordinated). But I’m not going to fault ethnic groups that do so.


  5. I don’t know about the horse uproar. Many years ago, I did what you do before the web. I loved data and was very good at it’s presentation and interpretation. I can tell you love it to. One caution, be careful about overestimating the intelligence of your audience. I noticed that the states were not named and that wasn’t necessary for me. However, there are a bunch of folks that know an appallingly small amount of geography. I resented the times I had to cater to the uneducated and uninformed but as I aged, I found that catering to them was necessary. Thanks for the good and interesting work.


  6. (Major!) nitpick:

    I doubt your bovine data are *cows*. Cows are mature females. (More precisely: females that have calved or kept for calving.)

    You probably mean cattle.

    (Just trying to keep you from looking silly to farmers and ranchers.)


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