Malta, Idaho
5 Rivers Cattle Feeding

President and CEO Mike Thoren is a ranch owner himself and has family ranching roots reaching back to the 19th century. Since 1991, Mike and his wife, Christina, have promoted stewardship, the health and well-being of their cattle, and the relationships between company and customer. This focus has made 5 Rivers one of the largest cattle-finishing operations in the country.

“Stewardship is imperative to success,” says Mike. “What most people don’t know is the amount of science and technology used — and the passion of the cattle feeders — to ensure healthy cattle and the health of the land.”

5 Rivers Cattle employs three full-time environmentalists who study, design, and institute practices to maintain animal and environmental safety.

“Our actual environmental controls are much more stringent than the regulations,” he says. “We view regulations as just the minimum standard.”

Much has changed in the cattle industry in the last forty or fifty years, Mike says, but that change hasn’t always been perceptible to the public. After the ground-breaking discoveries of Dr. Temple Grandin, the design of facilities and general care for cattle is drastically different.

“Dry cattle are happy cattle,” says Mike, “so, drainage is huge.”
The 11 feed lots that constitute 5 Rivers Cattle are laid out in a way so that there’s minimal stress on the cattle. Cattle get extra shade in hot areas and windbreaks in colder environments. Processing barns have been modernized to minimize stress on the cattle. Walls are curved, floors are padded, and everything is quiet.

5 Rivers works hard to make sure cattle are transported and processed responsibly. Cattle move seamlessly from the lot through inspection to processing. The goal is for cattle to experience the least amount of stress possible. The lack of stress an animal endures is imperative to not only the general health and well-being of the cow, but the quality of the final product.

“I think generally people are surprised by the amount of technology and science that the industry utilizes,” says Mike. “I know the industry is filled with impressive, capable and caring people who work hard to ensure there’s a healthy food supply. Cattle people care about animal welfare. These people make personal sacrifices in tough weather to make sure cattle are well cared for.”