New Mexico cattle growers push back on forest service cattle management tactics

Courtesy of Envato Elements

From staff reports

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association is locked in a battle with the U.S. Forest Service over the Forest Service’s range-management tactics, which involve using an aerial sharphshooter to kill cattle grazing on federal lands. 

The cattle grazing on federal lands are presumed to be abandoned as a result of vacated grazing allotments. On Feb. 9, the cattle growers sought an injunction to stop the aerial killings in the Gila Wilderness, but after an emergency hearing, a federal court denied a restraining order, allowing the Forest Service to proceed. According to the cattle growers, on Feb. 10, “47 head of cattle were removed, and no cattle were observed with ear tags or brands, despite intentional observation of each animal prior to engagement.” The operations were expected to continue the following day, but the cattle growers provided no details on those operations. 

The cattle growers contend the Forest Service intended to kill a total of 150 cattle, at a cost of $40,000 for the two-day operation, and leave the carcasses to be consumed by predators, leaving them with a greater taste for beef, potentially endangering herds on private land. 

“Today is a sad day for the livestock industry,” New Mexico Cattle Growers Association President Loren Patterson said in a statement on the organization’s website. “The federal government has made up rules about what it can do, regardless of whether it was given that authority and regardless of whether its action violates New Mexico state law. The killing of cattle by a government sniper from a helicopter is inhumane. Cattle will be wounded and suffer, calves will be left motherless. It is appalling and hypocritical that animal rights organizations have not voiced a very strong protest and instead support these actions.”

The USFS says that the shooting is necessary to bring them into compliance with the Center for Biological Diversity, which had sued them because cattle were getting into protected riparian areas in the Gila Wilderness and causing damage. 

The cattle growers contend that rather than leaving the animals for predators, they should have been processed for beef. 

“200 cattle x 440 lbs. (the average amount of edible beef one cow produces) = 88,000 lbs. of beef. A quick google shows that 1lb. of ground beef chuck Walmart in Santa Fe costs $4.48. This is roughly $394,240 worth of beef, if it was all processed as ground beef, which is being wasted,” the group wrote on its website. “Alternatively, Santa Fe’s Trader Joes sells 1 lb. of ground beef chuck for about $6.00 per pound, tallying the total waste at a whopping $528,000. The value left behind both monetarily and nutritionally from the gunning-down of estray cattle in the Gila is too momentous to disregard.”

Read more about the dispute here.

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