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Wisconsin Farmer's Views on the Benefits and Costs of Livestock Expansion
Fact Sheets No. 7, November 1997
by Douglas Jackson-Smith and Frederick Buttel

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The major livestock sectors - poultry, hogs, dairy, and beef - have been at the leading edge of change in U.S. agriculture. In recent decades, four trends in the national livestock industry have been particularly striking: dramatic rates of decline in the numbers of all types of livestock producers, the emergence of industrial-type confinement systems that permit extremely large scales of production, increased reliance on hired labor rather than family labor, and a new emphasis on contractual relationships among producers, suppliers and buyers. Reflecting nationwide trends, Wisconsin has lost substantial numbers of livestock farms over the past two decades. Overall livestock numbers and sales in the state have also declined. While modest-scale family farms continue to be the mainstay of Wisconsin agriculture, there has been growing debate about the desirability of expanding existing farms or creating new larger scale enterprises to restore or boost livestock production levels.

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