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Black vultures make economic impact on livestock industry

The winged hunters create financial harm for cattle producers in the southern U.S.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

June 18, 2024

1 Min Read
Black vultures in a field
GROUP LUNCH: One on one, black vultures lose out to the larger turkey vultures, but these predators come in packs and can decimate a livestock carcass.edurivero/Getty Images

Black vulture numbers continue to rise across the country, bringing with them an increased threat to the nation’s livestock industry.

A Cathartidae species, known as a New World vulture, is part of the multispecies scavenging group that provides valuable ecosystem services, including carrion removal, disease suppression and nutrient recycling.

While the positive economic benefits of the expanding black vulture populations have not been quantified, USDA worked through the negative side of the vulture balance sheet.

In the U.S., the black vulture can be an economic detriment for many livestock producers. The winged predator targets predominantly calves and small ruminants such as lambs. Attacks are cruel.

According to USDA Wildlife Services, black vultures are inefficient predators with some killing events lasting up to six hours from the start of interaction until the ultimate death of a lamb. The average interaction is three hours, 26 minutes.

Livestock producers are calling for more black vulture mediation measures due to the rise in numbers, economic impact and brutality of attacks.

Here is the current state of black vultures in the U.S.:

An infographic of black vultures by the numbers

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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