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By Chevon T. Baccus APR
Executive Editor 

Cattle Industry Big Business in Polk

Contributes $1.2 Billion to Economy


Last updated 4/5/2019 at 2:35pm

Williamson Photography of Lake Wales

J.B. Wynn working cattle

The cattle industry is big business in Polk County, contributing an estimated $1.2 billion to the local economy and creating about 5,859 jobs, according to a March 2019 impact analysis produced by the University of Florida-IFAS.

The UF-IFAS study said as of January 2019, Florida had an inventory of 1.68 million cattle and calves, including 914,000 beef cows and 116,000 dairy cows. An estimated 60,600 of them were in Polk County, which has the third largest cattle operation in the state of Florida.

J.B. Wynn of Alturas, a few miles west of Lake Wales, personally works about 700 head of cattle and helps manage about 3,000 more. Wynn Cattle is a family operation of J.B. and his wife Leighann, who grew up in the Lightsey family of cattle ranchers and now serves as assistant vice president of advancement at Warner University, which offers a major in agricultural studies.

"Florida is primarily a cow-calf state," said Wynn, who is a past president of the Polk County Cattleman's Association. "Most ranches in Florida that's what we do. This time of year is our calving season – we're working calves right now."

Wynn and his crews of day working cowboys mostly take care of cattle that are a side-business for people. They contract with Wynn to keep them healthy and grow the calves to a preferred size so they can be sold to cattle operations around the country raising them for the meat industry.

Wynn works his cattle on leased land scattered throughout Polk County. He said development is making it harder to find land to lease for the cattle industry, but Wynn said he's in it for the long haul, pointing to his toddler who he believes one day will take over the family business.

How can people help the cattle industry? Wynn has a simple answer: "Eat more beef."

According to the UF-IFAS study, the mix of cattle-related industry sectors is quite different across Florida counties, with beef and dairy farming concentrated in rural areas, and processing/manufacturing activities in urban areas.

According to the study, the cattle industry in Polk County directly employs 4,271 and is responsible for an additional 1,588 jobs in wholesale, retail and capital improvements.

As part of this study, a survey of the Florida cattle industry was conducted using the email list of over 5,000 persons maintained by the Florida Cattlemen's Association. The survey gathered information on farm/ranch area, farm enterprises, cattle inventory, annual sales, market channels, employment, capital improvement expenditures, farm practices, and open comments about economic contributions to the community.

The state of Florida has a long and colorful history of cattle ranching. The cattle industry contributes about $2.7 billion to the economy of Miami-Dade County and an estimated $1.27 billion to the economy of Broward County. Polk comes in just an estimated $400,000 below Broward.

Williamson Photography of Lake Wales

J.B. Wynn of Wynn Cattle

Currently, UF-IFAS estimates there are over 5.4 million acres of improve pasture, rangeland, and woodland used for beef and dairy cattle production, representing 15.6 percent of the state's land area. In addition to commodity production and commercial services in the cattle and allied industries, pastures and rangelands in Florida support a variety of recreational activities for fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing.

The entire UF-IFAS study on the 2017 economic impact of the cattle industry in Florida can be found at

According to the Polk County Cattleman's Association, Florida is the 12th largest cattle producing state in the U.S. The association website says winners of the Environmental Stewardship Award and other local cattlemen and women understand the sensitive eco-system they are blessed with. The association strives to promote "best management practices" from water quality and wildlife to proper cattle handling and producing a quality product for American families.

Author Bio

Chevon T. Baccus APR, Contributing Writer

After working as a newspaper reporter and editor for eight years, Chevon moved on to a long career in public relations, marketing and business development. After 2 1/2 years as founding publisher of she's happy to still be an occasional contributor.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 8636511065


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