Monday, July 12, 2010

More on the Mustang Issue

Functional Horsemanship received the following comment on the post concerning Mustangs,...."Anonymous said....The Ranchers get to use federal land for free or very cheap. The government is killing Mustangs just so the ranchers can get rich. We need to make it fairer for the Mustangs. - Cowgirl in Illionis"

See I told you this was an emotional issue. I seem to be squarely in the middle between the ranchers, who are friends of mine in many cases, and the Mustang lovers whose hearts are in the right place.

Here are some more facts:

The Ranchers do not get to use government grazing lands for free. They win a bid on them conducted publicly and openly and sometimes pay a great deal of money, per animal (cow), where in some cases I don't see how they can break even. The BLM controlled grazing units that I patrolled would cost the winning bidders anywhere from $7 to $17 per animal unit month. That is $7 to $17 per cow or cow-calf combo per month of use. Transportation costs to truck the cattle in; sending cowboys to check on them; and, extra feed in rough times all add up. It is not lucrative by any means. It's rough scrabble existence.

On the other side of the coin, it is Federal land and the BLM, or the US Forest Service in some cases, need to be good stewards and ensure fair worth for use is gained. And make no mistake about it, the Federal Government owns much too much land in the West and the current administration is trying to seize more,...and they can too, through use of imminent domain. I know some ranchers, only a generation of two removed from government confiscation of a historical homestead, and they have a bone to pick with the government.

Ranchers are good stewards of the land,..they have to be or otherwise they lose cattle, lose land and go under. Very few of them destroy the lands as the environmentalists would have people believe.

Some ranchers believe that when the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 was enacted and the Mustang herds became federally protected, sectioning off former grazing units for the Mustangs, the ranchers believe these wild horses belonged to them and were in effect confiscated by the federal government without due compensation. Well, that ain't necessarily right,.....those Mustangs belong to God, partner,.... .....nobody else.

With the Mustang lovers, you most often get people, like the letter writer from Illinois, who know nothing of the issues, and are often very misguided, thinking the land will support ten times what it really can. In some places a section (640 acres) is necessary for one horse to have feed. In their quest to provide a place for the Mustangs, even at the expense of long time ranching families, these people would end up providing a terrible life and death from starvation or colic. When there are too many Mustangs for the existing water to support, some of the Mustangs will die of dehydration. Horses dying of thirst will eat mud and that will colic them, dying a very painful death.

Much better to manage the herds, like they do in Oklahoma, through genetic testing, culling the herds, gelding most of the stallions based on genetic testing to reduce in breeding. Of course, that means many of the culled horses would have to be put down - however this would be much less torturous than starving or dying from a gut full of mud. Over grown Mustangs herds also have a negative impact on the other wildlife,...deer, antelope, etc.

The US Government must manage these herds through humane methods,...running mares and foals into the ground by helicopter ain't it. This may be the last I write on the subject, and nobody will be pleased with the other side of the issue, and I find myself in the middle.

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