A Horse With Cattle Feed In Its Saddle

Feeding cattle on horseback (!) in Rocky Mountain west

How Purina helps horse-bound ranchers on protected land support their livestock with less

In the remote Mountain West, rocky trails snake around cliffs and creeks under the vast sky. The area’s natural wildlife thrives due to the principle, “Leave no trace.” And you won’t find a way through by car — travelers must rely on horseback to trek these lands. Now, Purina is helping ranchers whose herds graze here to improve their cows’ nutrition while taking less into the mountains.
For generations, cow-calf producers have taken their cows up the mountains for 60, 90 even 120 days, to re-breed, calf and nurse. The Bureau of Land Management manages 155 million of these picturesque acres for livestock grazing in order to ensure sustainable use of the lands for future generations. With that comes a ban on tubs or any containers, which might get left behind in nature, that producers would normally use to transport nutritional supplements.

Purina Cattle Feed On Horseback

A few times a year, Elizabeth Backes, Ph.D., visits with producers in the region to understand their needs and options for supporting their herds’ nutrition. One clear need is access to the minerals that support mother cows’ health.
“They’re eating for three — first for themselves, then they’re nursing a calf and re-breeding. So nutrient requirements are at their highest,” says Dr. Backes, who herself grew up on a cow-calf operation.
Dr. Backes found that producers had limited options to supplement their herds’ nutrition. In fact, she says “the most common alternative is to do nothing.” Or producers use a salt block, which provides two necessary minerals, but “we know cows require 14.”
Her team at Purina wanted to provide balanced nutrition to help cows during that time period — in a formula that ranchers could easily deliver in the mountains on horseback.
And they did just that, developing a mineral block for cows grazing these precious lands that provides top nutrition and is horseback friendly.
Rangeland® Pro 8 Availa® 4 Mineral Block contains a balance of all 14 essential minerals for the cows. It’s been designed to impact biological functions that support reproduction, so the mineral sources are more available to the cow.
Also, at 33 pounds in a compact cuboid, cattle crewmembers can bring up a couple blocks on each side of their horse. The regular round mineral tubs range in weight from 60 to over 200 pounds — too unwieldy for horseback. Besides, the plastic tubs would violate the “leave no trace” contract.
“For me personally, working in that part of the world, I really do think it has the opportunity to be a good fit for the cattle, for the calves, for producers and better overall use of the land,” says Dr. Backes. “We’re all beginning to understand more about why mineral nutrition is important. This is one step for us to find better ways to reach producers and design what we need to do in the future.”