In developing countries across the globe the impact of livestock on deforestation levels has been profound. This paper explores the role of the cattle industry in household decision making for small landholders in the Brazilian Amazon. Important inquiries raised in the literature are addressed, including the determinants of the co-evolution of deforestation and cattle herds, the possibility of production specialization, and the role of cattle in household livelihoods. Panel data suggest that households have changed focus from crop introduction to cattle. Empirical models reveal that location, wealth, and education are among the important determinants of production decisions and cattle accumulation. Policy recommendations include a focus on the cattle sector coupled with initiatives to establish and enforce protected areas.