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Bill would remove Knox County from brand inspection areaTell North Platte what you think
Courtesy Photo­Image
Tyson Larson
Courtesy Photo­Image
Knox County in Sen. Tyson Larson's district 40.
Courtesy Photo­Image
Al Davis

The Nebraska Legislature’s Agriculture Committee looked at revising the state’s patchwork livestock brand inspection area Tuesday.

Legislative Bill 60, sponsored by Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, would remove Knox County from the Nebraska brand inspection area.

Ryan Creamer, the owner of Creighton Livestock in the Knox County brand inspection area, said branding is a good thing, but it’s a hardship for him if people from non-brand inspection areas don’t have the proper paperwork establishing ownership. Monday, a rancher called to sell cattle at Tuesday’s auction, but refused to come when asked for the necessary paperwork, Creamer said.

Instead, ranchers can go two miles south and nine miles east of Creamer’s sale barn and get out of the inspection area, or they can go north, to Yankton, S.D., to sell their cattle. “We need to keep as much business in the state of Nebraska as possible,” Creamer said.

Taking Knox out of the area would eliminate this problem, he said. The county has been split about two-thirds in the brand inspection area in Nebraska since 1983. Before that, it was all in.

Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis said brand inspection is still a patchwork quilt, with the western Nebraska in the inspection area and the eastern third and lone Furnas County out. He said ranchers moving cattle back and forth into the brand inspection area for summer pasture will cite Knox County as an example of why their county should be removed from the brand inspection area, too, and requests to drop out of the brand area would increase.

Feedlots and farmers have been expanding west, too, Davis said.

But Larson said he didn’t see a trend of counties going out of the brand inspection area and it isn’t his intent with LB 60 to cause that.

The Nebraska Brand Committee recovered 3,000 stray cattle last fiscal year, worth $1.1 million, said Steve Stanec, executive director of the committee.

“Brand inspection is not just for theft prevention,” he said. “It’s to recover those strays that have wandered.”

If a brand inspector goes to a sale barn and sees missing cattle from a brand area, he can put a hold on the sale, Davis said.

“That’s happened more often than you’d think,” he said. “Not because people are trying to steal them, but because the cattle get mixed in with their own cattle and they get shipped out.”

Davis gave an example of a snowstorm a few years ago that created a snow bank for cattle in feedlots to walk over fences.

“If we don’t have a brand inspection program, or some way to trace ownership, how’re we going to deal with that?” he asked.

Brands are permanent and won’t get lost like ear tags, but they can get covered with mud and hair in the feedlots, said Jim Herzog, one of three owners of the H&H Cattle Company feedlot in Bloomfield, in the non-brand inspection part of Knox County.

David Wright, president of the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, testified that branding isn’t required throughout Nebraska, but it proves who owns the cattle and pays for itself with 75-cent fees per head.

“People take the identification of their animals very seriously,” Larson said. “You want to make sure you’re not eroding the sanctity of the brand area or anything of that nature.”

Larson held a town hall meeting in Bloomfield on Oct. 4, where 70-100 people showed up from feedlots, livestock auctions and ranches. About 85 percent of attendees wanted Knox County out of the brand inspection area and no one from Knox County came to the hearing Tuesday to oppose the bill, Larson said.

“If (the brand program) doesn’t fit the producers or the producers don’t want it, why should the state or people feel like they know better than those local producers?” he asked.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 1/22/2013
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