The animal industries finally have a positive multiple-year outlook, writes Chris Hurt, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, in a new paper, “Rebuilding U.S. Animal Industries.”

The next era for animal industries will be one of rebuilding herds and flocks, Hurt says.  “This will be a multiple-year process and will be characterized as a role reversal for the crops sector and the animal sector. If the years from 2007 to 2013 could be described as the ‘Grain Era’ in which crop sector incomes had an extraordinary run, the coming period may be described as the ‘Animal Era’ when producers of animal products have strong returns. During the ‘Grain Era’ some resources like pasture land and forage production were converted to cash crop production. In the coming ‘Animal Era’ there will be some incentive to convert cash crop land back to animal industry use. This will be most predominant for the marginal cash crop lands of the central and western Great Plains.”

Hurt says the favorable income prospects will be based on feed prices re-setting to lower levels, continued reductions in drought affected pastures, and to strengthening domestic incomes.  “Animal industries are expected to be in a mini-boom phase in coming years lead by rising per capita consumption, continued small growth in U.S. population, and growing export demand. An important determining force of how big the boom will be will depend to what level feed prices re-set?

“This mini-boom phase for animal agriculture will be economically supportive to rural communities with strong animal populations. It will also stimulate economic activity in industries that supply, market, and process animal products including animal buildings and equipment, animal feed, haying and forage equipment, animal pharmaceuticals, and lending for animal expansion.”