The Big Island livestock industry consists of some 450 cattle operations, 70 hog operations, 41 dairy operations, 25 egg operations and 11 honey operations with a total sales value of over $25 million per year.
One of the most visible of the livestock industries, the beef cattle industry, generates revenues of nearly $20 million for the Big Island. This represents 74% of the total value of sales in the State of Hawaii. This industry produces over 5 million pounds of beef a year, which is 54% of the state's beef supply, on nearly 650,000 acres of grazing land. Cattle operations are scattered throughout the island, primarily in the North Kohala, Kona and Kau districts. Today, most calves are exported to the mainland U.S., Canada and Mexico. However, some animals are developed on the Big Island for local marketing as natural forage-fed beef or yearling beef.
Two colors dominate this industry, black and white, the multi-patterned Holstein-Friesian cow is the backbone of this important livestock industry. Close to 2,000 cows from the four major dairies provide nearly the entire fresh fluid milk supply for the island. The diary industry generates $7.5 million in farm gate revenues. The Big Island Dairy Cooperative, whose members include Cloverleaf Dairy, Island Dairy, Ruis Enterprise and S&S Dairy, leads all promotional and marketing efforts in the advancement of the milk industry on the Big Island.
The Big Island Pork Industry Association is the dynamic group leading the hog industry to future growth. Currently, there are slightly less than 3,000 total hogs that are being produced by an estimated 70 farms, creating about $500,000 in sales. The major market is the "fresh, hot pork market" centralized in Chinatown on Oahu, where vendors receive the fresh pork still slightly warm to the touch from the local slaughterhouse. A few entrepreneurial farmers have attempted to service that market, but most farmers market their hogs to hotels for luau shows, direct farm sales and limited numbers sold through local super markets.
Mostly all of the poultry production on the Big Island is layer, or egg production. Estimates of 25 to 30 million farm-fresh eggs enter the local market annually. Island fresh eggs supported by local consumers create approximately $1.6 million of revenue for the industry on the Big Island. There are three principal layer operations, Hawaiian Fresh Egg Farm, Kona Poultry Farm and Panaewa Eggs; and one specialty flock, Big Island Poultry Farm, producing brown fertile eggs on the island.
Another growth sector of the livestock industry is in the small ruminants. Sheep and goat (dairy and meat) producers have organized the Sheep Producers Association of Hawaii to direct their own destiny. Their activities include marketing and promotion of island lamb and issues concerning diseases, reproduction and genetics.
Often overlooked as a livestock business is the honey and queen bee industries. The Big Island is the state's leading producer of honey with annual production of about one million pounds. The major honey producing area is on the western side of the island. This sweet business produces uniquely flavored honey such as lehua, Christmas berry, kiawe, macadamia nut and coffee honeys. There are about six commercial honey operations and three major queen bee operations on the Big Island. Hawaii's climatic conditions and disease-free status enhance queen bee production, establishing a world-wide reputation for Big Island beekeepers.
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