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How important are cows, sheep and horses in Wyoming? Well, these species are obviously important to our history and culture, if nothing else. But it is much more than that. These three species generate the bulk of the third-largest industry (behind energy and tourism) for Wyoming. Notably, it is also the industry that best endures economic shifts and avoids seasonal fluctuations each year.

These three species represent the bulk of activity on the 11,600 farms and ranches in Wyoming agriculture. We also have crops such as hay and grain, but the bulk of it goes back to livestock.

Per the USDA statistics for January 2017, Wyoming agriculture produces $1,689,416,000 of revenue for the state. In comparison to the larger industries — energy development and tourism, which generate larger numbers — agriculture multiplies its benefit more aggressively. Each dollar generated in Wyoming agriculture circulates over 3.5 times before leaving the communities and state, generating a whopping $5,912,956,000 in sustainability for the state. If you are counting, that’s over $5.9 billion every year despite shifts in the other primary industries.

But back to some demographics about these listed animals.

There are currently an estimated 1,330,000 cattle in the state of Wyoming. That is huge compared to the human population estimated at 563,626 people, which is declining. That’s right, we have 2.4 cattle per person in the state. This is nothing compared to some other states around us, but cattle and sheep numbers reflect climate and forage production within a state.

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There are currently an estimated 360,000 sheep in Wyoming and growing quick. That equates to about only about 0.64 sheep per person.

There are an estimated 105,000 horses in the state including the “wild” horses. So your individual personal horse share is 0.19 horse per person. That’s just a little less than a ¼ of a horse, so would it be fair to say that each person has an immature “quarter horse?”

The reality is that these 1.8 million animals and our wildlife are important to us. They are just as important as our scenery, our weather and the “persona” of our state. So if you visit with a livestock producer, remember that their efforts provide our baseline, and they have a dedicated and active role in managing over 80 percent of the Wyoming landscape through ownership or lease.

Beyond that, think about getting your own piece of Wyoming livestock. The UW Extension offices can give you information.

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