Hanaeleh responded to the articles in the Salt Lake Tribune regarding the desire of Utah legislators to round up wild mustangs that are currently on federal lands – and under the supervision of the BLM – and send them to slaughter. This is illegal and goes against the Wild Horse Protection Act of 1971. You can read our open letter to the editor here.
The argument that these and other millionaire cattle ranchers have across the United States, is that the wild horses are eating too much of the grass on the range, and drinking too much water. This is blatantly false but it doesn’t stop them their continued propaganda.
A lie told often enough becomes truth.
The numbers don’t lie! Please read below to get a better understanding of the water and forage intake of cattle versus horses on America’s public lands. Then, share this information with friends and family, and on social media.
The only way to combat the propaganda and back-room political promises is to disseminate the truth about grazing rights. There are more of us than their are of them!
Water Intake: Horse versus Cattle
A horse drinks approximately 8-14 gallons a day, depending upon the heat and level of exercise. Cattle, on the other hand, need on average approximately 20 gallons of water per day, and may actually consume up to 50 gallons of water per day!
This all makes sense once you know that the typical rule is that cattle will drink up to 1 gallon of water per 100 pounds when it is cold, and 2 gallons per 100 pounds when it is warm (over 90 degrees).
A bull weighs, on average, 2,400 pounds, whereas a cow weighs around 1,600 pounds. That means that when it’s cold, the range is between 16-24 gallons of water per day, but when it is warm, that doubles to 32-48 gallons of water versus 8-14 gallons.
Consequently, even if the ratio of cattle versus horses is as low as 9:1 (as it states in the article), the amount of water that the horses drink per cattle is negligible at best.
- On a cold day, the cattle drink 144- 216 gallons of water per day versus the 8-14 gallons of the horse.
- On a warm day, the cattle drink 288-452 gallons of water per day versus the horse’s 8-14 gallons.
If you use the standard 30:1 cattle versus horse statistic provided by the BLM, that number ranges from 480-720 gallons of water on a cold day, or 960-1,440 gallons of water on a warm day, per day versus 8-14 gallons.
That’s 960-1,440 gallons (cattle) versus 8-14 gallons (horse).
It’s obvious that it’s not the horses who are to blame for any water shortage in the United States, and especially not in Utah.
Forage Intake: Horse versus Cattle
Cattle are much less picky than horses about what they eat, and they eat a lot!
Cattle eat consistently for approximately 12 hours, and can eat up to 130 pounds of grass and forage per day. Because they will eat almost anything in front of them, they are ideal to clear high grasses that grow out in the wild. Unfortunately, this also clears all of the natural forage for any other wildlife that might live there.
There are numerous studies done on the destructive force that grazing cattle have on our environment. Not only do cattle increase methane and other greenhouse gasses, their foraging habits create very real fire dangers that can decimate the natural ecosystem. Cattle can also negatively change the soil characteristics and can also prevent future plant growth. Overall, cattle move very little, but must eat a lot, meaning that they completely consume all of the natural plants and grasses in a small area.
Horses on the other hand, are very picky and roam more when they eat. Horses will refuse to eat a number of different plants, instead feasting on the grasses that are available. A typical 1,000 pound horses will eat approximately 20-25 pounds of grass per day.
That’s 130 pounds of food versus 25 pounds. With a 9:1 ratio, that’s 1,170 pounds versus 25 pounds. For the 30:1 ratio, that’s 3,900 pounds versus 25 pounds.
That’s 3,900 pounds (cattle) versus 25 pounds (horse).
The numbers just don’t add up; it’s clearly not the horses who are the problem. Not in Utah; not anywhere in the U.S.
Water Usage (allowed 30:1 ratio):
Cattle: 960-1,440 gallons
Horse: 8-14 gallons
Forage (allowed 30:1 ratio):
Cattle: 3,900 pounds
Horse: 25 pounds
The horses are being blamed for the damage done by private cattle herds.
These private cattle ranchers are knowingly overgrazing their herds on federal lands. The BLM is allowing the cattle to overgraze and continue to allow the increase of the number of cattle while, at the same time, continue to lowering grazing fees.
If there is a water shortage, it’s much more likely to be due to the overwhelming number of cattle, not a handful of horses.
If there is a feed shortage, it’s because of the rising numbers of cattle, not a few horses.
If the legislators want to preserve our federal lands and reduce the cost to taxpayers, they will greatly reduce the number of cattle on federal lands and use PZP on wild horses to help manage their herd size instead of rounding up horses, which costs millions and ends up killing and brutalizing horses. Unfortunately, many of these legislators and even the BLM are at the beck and call of the cattle ranchers, and, as a result, completely ignore both blatant facts and even common sense, and instead focus the blame of what is obviously not the result of the wild horses, onto the wild horses.
Who will the cattle ranchers blame for their continued bastardization of the land when there are no more wild horses to blame?
Discussion how livestock interaction impacts grass growth.
BLM and USFS livestock grazing stats
Water requirements for beef and cattle