Fast comparative statistics; wild horses v domestic livestock

Wild horses are often removed to accommodate livestock or mining. This beautiful family is no longer on the range. The mountain lions, in this subset herd, that kept the population growth rate at about 6-8% were killed because they might be a threat to livestock.

This is a companion piece to “Livestock Trespass, what you should know.” CLICK HERE to read companion piece. 

Animal Unit Month: An Animal Unit Month (AUM) is the amount of forage required by one animal unit for one month. AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. (This formula was set in 1978 to roughly imply 1000 lbs of animal. Yet an AUM for “a cow/calf” pair does not consider forage consumed by the “calf” up to 6 months of age. The live weight of a cow at slaughter has almost increased by 50% since 1978 and fluctuates depending on the date.)

It is worth noting that the current cost per AUM for a private profit grazing on public lands is $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM). The grazing fee for 2019 is $1.35 per AUM (less than the cost of one can of dog food, a single latte, a 5 lb bag of flour).

BLM has also begun a program they call “Outcome Based Grazing.” This system further subsidizes public land livestock if they do not make the money they expect. The fees are based on “outcome.”

Many permittees will argue that wild horses are out all year and their cows are not, blaming any degradation on wild horses. If your fridge only has so much food it doesn’t matter if you invite too many party guests for 15 minutes or 15 hours, what you have is all you have. The same thing applies to the amount of grass that grows (you should also understand some permittees on public lands do have year round permits).

We have added this paragraph here for sake of argument: In Nevada domestic livestock are allotted 2 million AUM (from what can be tracked in 2019 from available data on BLM website). Wild horses have what is called an Appropriate Management Level (AML) of 12,811 that translates to 153,732 AUMs. If wild horses were at 4 times AML the AUMs would equal 614,928. That number is still a fraction of what is allotted to domestic livestock.

Fast comparative stats from the statistics available online. The BLM has removed many pages, including those that track livestock, from the internet:


Cattle and Sheep: 658,155 AUM. Horses: 1,676 AML (AUM translation: 20,112)


Cattle and Sheep: 472,000 AUM. Horses: 2,200 AML (AUM translation: 26,400)


Cattle and Sheep: 580,410 AUM ( 1,160,820 cow/calf and/or 2,902,050 sheep). Horses: 812 AML (AUM translation: 9,744)


Cattle and Sheep: 394,957 AUM. Horses: 617 AML (AUM translation: 7,404)


Cattle and Sheep: 1.4 million AUM . Horses: 120 AML (AUM translation: 1,440)


Cattle and Sheep: 2 million AUM. Horses: 12,811 AML (AUM translation: 153,732)

New Mexico

Cattle and Sheep: 2,300 AUM. Horses: 83 AML (AUM translation: 996)


Cattle and Sheep: 1.1 million AUM. Horses: 1,390 – 2,686 AML (AUM translation:32,232)


Cattle and Sheep: 1.3 million AUM. Horses: 1,956 AML (AUM translation: 23,472)


Cattle and Sheep: 1.9 million AUM. Horses: 2,490 AML (AUM translation: 29,880)

So what is destroying the range, wild horses or domestic livestock?